With rare exceptions such as the franchise-based system of Major League Soccer, promotion and relegation are the law of the land in soccer leagues across the world. The same is true of the J. League's three divisions, with a big caveat.

Even if Machida Zelvia finish in one of the J. League second division's two automatic promotion spots, it will not become the third-ever Tokyo club to reach the first division following in the footsteps of FC Tokyo and Tokyo Verdy.

Preventing Zelvia's potential first-ever top-flight promotion is the league's club license system, a dense set of requirements that serve as a checklist for operating a professional club.