The J. League’s top division will open its 26th season on Friday, Feb. 23, the league announced on Friday, making it the first time the season has started on a weekday.
The move toward having games on Friday is to ease the congestion of a tighter schedule caused by this year’s World Cup finals in Russia. Sagan Tosu will blaze this new trail when they host Vissel Kobe, although difficulties in attracting fans are anticipated.
“We are attempting to add another day of topics to our weekends,” league vice chairman Hiromi Hara said. “And Tosu has stepped up for us.”
The J1’s other teams will swing into action starting on the next day, with Nagoya Grampus marking their return from a year in the second division at Gamba Osaka and J1 debutants V-Varen Nagasaki playing at 2017 champion Shonan Bellmare.
The first Sunday fixtures will feature defending league champion Kawasaki Frontale at Jubilo Iwata, and a rematch of the Emperor’s Cup final with Cerezo Osaka hosting the runner-up Yokohama F. Marinos.