Football column

J3 Championship Predictions! Are FC Gifu, SC Sagamihara, and Matsumoto Yamaga the best?

J3 Championship Predictions! Are FC Gifu, SC Sagamihara, and Matsumoto Yamaga the best?

The J3 League is set to begin on March 12. This season, 18 teams will compete in the league, three more than last season. As a prelude to the start of the season, we will be discussing and predicting the winning team for 2022.

The content includes my personal subjectivity.
This is just a forecast, so please consider it as a reference.
(The contents are as of February 15, 2022)

J1 championship prediction is here.

What team do you think will win the J3 championship?

Here are the four teams we are predicting to win the J3 championship.

  • FC Gifu
  • SC Sagamihara
  • Matsumoto Yamaga FC
  • Cataret Toyama

Now, let’s take a look at each of them.

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FC Gifu


The first team is FC Gifu. The reason why I mentioned FC Gifu is because of their major reinforcement.

The reason why I mentioned FC Gifu is because of their large reinforcements: even though they are a J3 team, they brought in proven players from teams two categories higher, such as Ugajin, who left Urawa Reds, and Junya Tanaka, who left Vissel Kobe. Even though they left the team when their contracts expired, these are players that a J1 team could have taken.

In addition to that, we have also reinforced players who were active in J3, such as FW Charles Nduka from YS Yokohama, who scored 6 goals and 1 assist in 22 games last season. Looking at the strength of this winter’s reinforcements, we can say that we are head and shoulders above the other teams.

Of course, you can’t always win with a high level of players. However, the expectations are very high for Gifu as they have some of the best players in J3.


There is a concern about how well the veteran players will be able to compete in the J3 environment. This is because J3 is characterized by its emphasis on physicality. There are many teams that work hard, and physical fatigue is expected to be high. In a sense, it is a tough league for veterans. It will be important for the newcomers Tanaka and Ugajin to get used to the J3 environment, and if they can get used to it and play at a high level, it will definitely make the team stronger.

Also, Shota Kawanishi, the top scorer in J3 last season, has moved on. This will be a concern if no one comes forward to fill the void.

Key players

FC Gifu’s key man is new coach Toshiya Miura, who has coached in J1 and J2, and won the J2 championship with Consadole Sapporo, and has not coached in the J-League since leaving Vanforre Kofu in 2011. He has not been in the J-League since 2011, when he left Vanforre Kofu, and until last season he was both the team general manager and technical director of FC Gifu, so his knowledge of the team’s inner workings is a plus. The team’s strength is sufficient, so it is up to the coach to decide how to lead the team.

Newcomers Charles Nduka and Kosuke Fujioka are also key players. As mentioned above, the top scorer of last season has transferred from FC Gifu. Therefore, it will be important for the newcomers to be able to score enough goals to make up for the loss. Especially Fujioka, who was the second highest scorer last season, is expected to play a big role.



The second team is SC Sagamihara, which finished 19th in J2 last season and was relegated to J3.

SC Sagamihara was relegated to J3 after finishing 19th in J2 last season. The reason why I mentioned SC Sagamihara is because of the team’s ability to fight for survival until the end of last season, and the coach’s continuation.

SC Sagamihara challenged J2 for the first time last season and was relegated after only one year. However, despite some coaching changes due to poor performance and other factors, the fight for survival persisted until the last game. If we had won the last game, we could have stayed in the competition. Another factor was that last season we had an unusual regulation of relegating four teams. If two teams had been relegated as usual, SC Sagamihara would not have been relegated. This means that SC Sagamihara is the closest to J2 in terms of strength and team power among the teams that were relegated this season.

In addition, SC Sagamihara’s coach Takuya Takagi, who has been in charge since the middle of last season, has decided to continue. This is the best reinforcement for the team. Takuya Takagi has experience in the past with Yokohama FC and V. Farren Nagasaki, where he was promoted from J2 to J1. He has been in charge of various teams in J2 for many years and has more than enough experience. One of his most recent good results was third place in J2 with Omiya Ardija in 2019.

They were relegated to J3 last season, but they would not have been relegated if they had been able to play the season at the level they did after taking over in the middle of the season. 6 wins, 9 minutes, 11 losses, and 27 points from 26 games. That’s the same number of points as the remaining team.

They have a strong team that fought until the end of last season in J2, and an excellent coach who has been promoted to J1. I expect SC Sagamihara to come out on top because they have both of these.


The concern with SC Sagamihara is the high turnover of personnel. The reinforcements have been successful enough, but there have been a lot of people who have left the club instead. For example, FW Yuri, who scored 4 goals and 1 assist in 32 games last year, is one of them. Foreign players are a great asset in J3. Yuri’s departure will be a bit painful, as he often played in the middle last season.

The change of players also means that we are back to square one in terms of team building. The key to winning the championship or getting promoted will be how quickly the team can be built with the new players.

Key players

One of the key players is newcomer Takayuki Funayama. Funayama played 38 games for JEF Chiba in J2 last season, scoring 8 goals and providing 2 assists, and although he is a 34-year-old veteran, it will be interesting to see how he can perform in J3 after his recent success in J2.

Matsumoto Yamaga FC


The third team is Matsumoto Yamaga FC. They were relegated from J2 last season and will be playing in J3 for the first time this season, and with their experience in J1, they have the most name value among the J3 teams. The reason why I have chosen Matsumoto Yamaga as a candidate is because of their financial strength and stable power.

Matsumoto Yamaga has outstanding financial strength among the J3 teams. For example, their operating revenue for 2020 is 1.928 billion yen, which is the 6th highest in J2. In the same year, FC Gifu had the highest operating revenue in J3 at 853 million yen. From this, we can see how big a financial club Matsumoto Yamaga is.

Being financially strong means that it is easy to make major reinforcements. For example, if the team does not reach the top of the standings at the beginning of the season, it can be reinforced in the summer. If you have the financial resources, you can easily acquire foreign helpers to strengthen your team. This winter’s reinforcements were rather modest. However, if the team is not doing well, having the financial strength to make changes is a weapon that other teams do not have.

Also, although the winter reinforcements did not stand out greatly, the level of strength is still high. Among the players who have moved to the club are midfielder Paulinho, who was previously with Matsumoto Yamaga, and goalkeeper Victor, who played 23 games for Montedio Yamagata last season. Having solid reinforcements in the back will be a plus in the J3. In FW, we also have a physical helper in Lucao. He only played in four games last season due to injury, but there is a very good chance that he will be able to compete in the J3 stage.

Considering the size of the club, it is essential for Matsumoto Yamaga to return to J2 within a year. Therefore, the team will do everything in its power to make a comeback.


The concern is that this is their first time in J3, and there is a good chance that they will struggle in the physical environment of J3. For example, SC Sagamihara, who are also relegated, will have experienced the J3 stage and will know how to compete in it. If they struggle to cope with the J3 stage, they could fall to the middle of the table or lower.

Also, the team was not in good shape last season. It will be important to see if they can wipe out the team from last season.

Key man

The key man is the aforementioned Lucao, who scored 10 goals in 24 games during his time with Zegen Kanazawa in J2 in 2020, and with his ability to score 10 goals a season in J2, he should be able to score even more in J3 if he performs well.

He was the top scorer in J3 last season with 13 goals. Of course, the number of games played this season is different from last season, so it is not a simple comparison. However, if Lucao can score in double figures in J2, we can expect him to be in the top scorer’s class. He is a very important player for Matsumoto Yamaga as they aim for the championship and promotion.

Cataret Toyama


The fourth team is Cataret Toyama. Cataret Toyama finished 4th in J3 last year. They were only seven points behind the second place team that was promoted. The reason why I have chosen Cataret Toyama as a candidate is because of the continuity of the coach and the substantial reinforcement.

Cataret Toyama will continue to be managed by Nobuhiro Ishizaki, who has been in charge since last season. Ishizaki has been a coach for many years in J1 and J2; in 2019 he will be at Fujieda MYFC, where they also finished 3rd in J3. In 2019, with Fujieda MYFC, he finished third in J3, and last season, in his first year at the helm, he finished fourth, which shows his ability as a coach. This is Ishizaki’s second year as coach, so we can expect him to refine the team.

Cataret Toyama, following in the footsteps of FC Gifu, has made major reinforcements this winter. For example, they acquired FW Kawanishi, last season’s J3 top scorer, and midfielder Artur Silva from Yokohama FC, which was relegated to J2. Artur Silva played 29 games as a mainstay for FC Tokyo in 2020. With this reinforcement, Cataret Toyama’s center line will be quite solid. Thus, from a strength standpoint, Cataret Toyama is a top contender for this season.

The reinforcements are substantial, and the coach is in his second year, so we can expect them to continue their progress from last season.


One point of concern is that they stalled in the second half of last year. Their record from the 24th to the last game of last season was 1 win, 4 losses, and 2 draws, and they lost 4 games from the 1st to the 23rd game, so you can see how they stalled at the end. If they can do well in the beginning and middle of the season, it will be important to see how many wins they can get in the last half of the season.

Key Man

The key player is Kawanishi, the top scorer last season, who joined from FC Gifu. This reinforcement not only strengthens the team, but also weakens their rivals.

It will be important to see if Kawanishi can play as well as he did at FC Gifu and bring victory to the team. If he can be the top scorer again this season, the team will inevitably come out on top.

J3 championship prediction summary

What do you think? This season, there are four teams relegated from J2, so we can expect a more crowded race than usual. Also, the promoted team, Iwaki FC, has the potential to make a breakthrough in J3 because of their physicality. Please keep an eye on J3 this season to see if the teams with the most strength will come out on top or if a dark horse will emerge.


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