The B. League revealed its conference allocations for the 2020-21 season following a meeting of its governors on Friday.
The circuit’s top division (B1) will play with 20 teams in two conferences. The top division had consisted of 18 teams divided into three conferences since the league’s inception in 2016.
The B. League abandoned the remainder of the 2019-20 season in March, with one-third of the campaign remaining, due to the COVID-19 outbreak. Because of the unusual circumstances, the league decided against holding its promotion/relegation playoffs and will instead add two teams to the top division for the upcoming season.
As a result, the second division (B2) will compete with 16 clubs, two fewer than this year, in 2020-21.
In B1, the East Conference is loaded with title contenders such as the two-time league champion Alvark Tokyo, the Utsunomiya Brex, winners of the inaugural league title, Chiba Jets Funabashi and Kawasaki Brave Thunders.
In the West Conference, teams like the SeaHorses Mikawa, Ryukyu Golden Kings and Osaka Evessa are expected to contend for the eight playoff spots. Both the Shinshu Brave Warriors and Hiroshima Dragonflies, who were promoted to B1 as the top two teams in B2 this past season, will play in the West.
“I haven’t seen reactions (about the allocations) from the teams yet,” B. League chairman Masaaki Okawa said in an online news conference. “But as far as I’ve seen, from the reactions of some fans, many of the (more competitive) teams like Kawasaki will be in the East, so they have mixed feelings about teams playing more competitive games and having to go through tougher challenges. But we’re hoping the teams in the West will be inspired and exceed our expectations.”
Meanwhile, all 18 clubs that competed in B1 in the 2019-20 season have secured their B1 licenses. Additionally, six B2 teams, including Shinshu and Hiroshima, earned B1 licenses.
Teams are required to have club licenses to compete in the league, and the licenses are authorized based upon financial, infrastructure and personnel and administrative criteria in addition to other factors. As part of the infrastructure criteria, teams have to meet strict requirements regarding the capacity of their home arena (over 5,000 for B1 teams and 3,000 in B2).
But because of the exceptional situations surrounding the coronavirus, which led to the shortening the 2019-20 campaign, the league decided to not take the financial criteria into account for the upcoming season.
The league also announced that while there would be no relegation after the 2020-21 season, the top two B2 clubs would be promoted. Which means B1 will be a 22-team division in 2021-22 while B2 will compete with 14 clubs.
Okawa emphasized this is a special case caused by the coronavirus and that both B1 and B2 will eventually return to 18 apiece.
The complete B1 allocations:
East — Levanga Hokkaido, Akita Northern Happinets, Utsuomiya Brex, Chiba Jets Funabashi, Alvark Tokyo, Sunrockers Shibuya, Kawasaki Brave Thunders, Yokohama B-Corsairs, Niigata Albirex BB, Toyama Grouses.
West — Shinshu Brave Warriors, Sen-en NeoPhoenix, SeaHorses Mikawa, Nagoya Diamond Dolphins, Shiga Lakestars, Kyoto Hannaryz, Osaka Evessa, Shimane Susanoo Magic, Hiroshima Dragonflies, Ryukyu Golden Kings.
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