Fans of the J.League can look forward to more Friday night football, highly-anticipated clashes between Thai stars, and a historical ‘Peace Derby’ as the league unveiled its 2018 schedule on Wednesday.
In a follow-up to last week’s tease which revealed the home openers for each club, the full schedule for the MEIJI YASUDA J1 League includes up to 11 rounds with Friday night fixtures. The decision to spread J1 matches across three days, with more matches also taking place on Sunday, is seen as an effort to expand the league’s media exposure.
However, the Friday night scheduling has drawn concern from some observers who see the move as conflicting with the J.League’s usual friendly posture toward travelling supporters.
Thai fans anticipating meetings between national team stars Teerasil Dangda and Chanathip Songkrasin won’t have to wait long, as Sanfrecce Hiroshima will host Hokkaido Consadole Sapporo in an opening day clash on February 24. The two teams will also met at the Sapporo Dome on December 1 in their season finale.
Vissel Kobe and anticipated arrival Theerathon Bunmathan will get their own Thai Derby as early as March 18 when they host Cerezo Osaka, who have signed midfielder Chaowat Veerachat to a year-long loan.
While the relegation of Omiya Ardija means that Urawa Reds supporters will endure a year without the Saitama Derby, fans in Tokyo-neighboring Kanagawa can look forward to a three-way Kanagawa Derby following Shonan Bellmare’s promotion. Additionally, V-Varen Nagasaki will participate in their first J1-level ‘Kyushu Derby’ against Sagan Tosu.
The match perhaps expected to draw the most international attention will take place on August 11, when Sanfrecce Hiroshima host V-Varen Nagasaki just days after the 62nd anniversary of the atomic bombings. The so-called ‘Peace Derby’ had been proposed by V-Varen chairman Akira Takata and positively received by Hiroshima officials.
As in 2014, the J1 will take a two-month break for the FIFA World Cup beginning in mid-May.
The 2018 J.League YBC Levain Cup will open on March 7, concluding with the October 27 final at Saitama Stadium.
The MEIJI YASUDA J2 League will open on February 25 and conclude on November 17, with the newly-revamped J1/J2 Playoffs taking place in late November and early December.