The 100th Emperor's Cup will include only two teams from the J. League in a seven-round format that has been dramatically reduced in scope due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the Japan Football Association announced Thursday.
The annual tournament has been open to all registered clubs since its 52nd edition in 1972, but the new coronavirus, which halted all play in the J. League's three divisions as well as amateur leagues across the country, has forced organizers to reorganize the centennial edition multiple times before a single game has been played.
Instead of beginning on May 23 as originally scheduled, the tournament will open on Sept. 16 with a field reduced from 88 teams to 50. The top two teams from the J. League's first division will enter the competition from the semifinals.
The first round will begin with 32 amateur clubs representing their prefectures. Fifteen more prefectural representatives as well as reigning Japan Football League champions Honda FC, the nation's top-seeded amateur team, will join from the second round.
These changes will allow J. League teams to play league fixtures on dates that had originally been scheduled for the Emperor's Cup, whose final is still scheduled for Jan. 1 at Tokyo's National Stadium.
While the winner of the Emperor's Cup is traditionally given a spot in the next year's Asian Champions League, both J. League teams will have already qualified for the continental tournament through their performance in the domestic league. According to the JFA, amateur clubs would not be eligible to participate in the ACL due to the lack of required club licenses.
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