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After initially restricting the Emperor’s Cup from 88 teams down to 50 — excluding nearly all of the top two divisions in the process — the Japan Football Association on Thursday announced that it would include the winners of the J2 and J3, raising the number of participating teams to 52.

The annual cup competition will begin on Sept. 16 with 32 amateur prefectural representatives. Reigning JFL champion Honda FC and the remaining 15 prefectural representatives will join from the second round on Sept. 23.

The J2 and J3 champions will enter from the quarterfinals on Dec. 23, while the top two J1 clubs will enter from the semifinals on Dec. 27 before the Jan. 1 final at Tokyo’s National Stadium.

The JFA has also reduced the amount of prize money, with the winner of the tournament receiving ¥100 million ($935,000), the runner-up receiving ¥30 million ($280,500) and the third-place teams receiving ¥10 million ($93,500).

While the winner would also secure a spot in the 2021 ACL, that right will be limited to the four participating J. League sides — and only those that have the required ACL license. Were the J3 champion to win the tournament and qualify for the ACL, it would be the first time that a non-J1 side participated in the continental competition since Tokyo Verdy 1969 in 2006.

Clubs shed foreign players

A number of foreigners who started the J1 season in Japan will be absent when the league resumes next month.

Consadole Sapporo goalkeeper Gu Sung-yun, who was already slated to leave the club at the end of this season in order to fulfill his mandatory military service next year, pushed up his departure by seven months when his transfer to the K-League’s Daegu FC was announced late last month.

Gu is likely to be replaced between the posts by veteran Takanori Sugeno, who arrived over the winter from Kyoto Sanga. Second in the depth chart could be Thai goalkeeper Kawin Thamsatchanan, who was expected to spend this season learning the J. League ropes before potentially taking the starting position next year.

With its U-23 team having been disbanded and the status of the Asian Champions League still in question, FC Tokyo has parted ways with two of its foreign youngsters. Korean midfielder Na Sang-ho was loaned to Seongnam FC on June 10, while Thai midfielder Chayathorn, on loan from Bangkok United, has told Goal Thailand he will return to his parent club.

On Wednesday, Kashima Antlers announced the loan of center back Bueno to Brazil’s Atletico Mineiro. Meanwhile, Nagoya Grampus have parted ways with striker Jo, who will rejoin Corinthians two years after becoming the most expensive signing in Grampus history. The former Brazil international lit up the J1 with 24 goals in 2018, but managed just six last season.

A third Brazilian — Gamba Osaka talisman Patric — could reportedly be bound for FC Seoul, Korean media have reported this week.

Youth competitions canceled

The impact of the coronavirus on Japan’s soccer calendar continues to be felt, with both the J. League and JFA announcing the cancellation of several elite-level youth tournaments.

On Monday, the J. League announced that it had called off the J. Youth Cup, a knockout tournament featuring the league’s Under-18 academy sides as well as four representatives from the Japan Club Youth Football Federation, as well as the J. League International Youth Cup, an Under-17 tournament involving the top four finishers at the J. Youth Cup and four overseas invitees.

On Friday, the JFA announced the cancellation of the 2020 Prince Takamado Trophy U-18 Premier League, the association’s elite academy competition, due to coronavirus-related risks posed to players by related travel.

The JFA will work with regional football associations to establish new 2020 competitions for the 20 clubs scheduled to participate in the Premier League as well as the 88 teams who were set to contest the second-tier U-18 Prince League.

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