The J. League will kick off its 2006 season on March 4 with a clash between defending champion Gamba Osaka and Urawa Reds, runnerup in 2005, the league announced Friday.

The match at Expo Stadium will be followed by eight first-division games the next day as the 18 teams in the top flight begin their campaigns in a season having an unusually long break of more than two months for the World Cup finals.

Kyoto Purple Sanga will visit Yokohama F. Marinos for its first game of the season while fellow promoted side Ventforet Kofu will host Shimizu S-Pulse.

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