In June 2020, the Japan Football Association announced the formation of a new top-flight professionals women's football league, known as the WE League (Women's Empowerment League). One of the requirements of the WE League is that each team must have at least five players signed to fully professional contracts that are not subject to a salary cap.
17 clubs applied to join the WE League, with the idea of there being 8 to 10 teams within the league. By October 2020, 11 teams were announced to be the founding members of the WE League, with 7 of those teams being affilates to J.League sides.
The semi-professional Nadeshiko League will become the second level on the women's football pyramid.
As it stands there is no promotion or relegation to or from the WE.League, but this will be looked at in a few years time once the success of the league is assessed.
The League is set to start in the next few months on Sunday 12th September. Currently as it stands the games will only be avaliable to watch in Japan on Dazn. However, there may be the possibility to catch the games internationally through other providers such as MyCujoo, who have shown Nadeshiko League football in the past. Will update as we hear more.
Mynavi Sendai Ladies
Formed in 2012 as Vegalta Sendai Ladies, they were promoted to the Nadeshiko League Division 1 in their first year after finishing 1st in the Nadeshiko League Division 2. Since then they have remained in the top division, however they have never won the league. Only finishing runners up in 2015.
In 2017, the club signed a title partner contract with Mynavi Corporation and became Mynavi Vegalta Sendai Ladies. For the start of the 2021 WE.League, the club name will be Mynavi Sendai Ladies.
Founded 23 years ago in 1998, they were known as Urawa Reinas between 1999 - 2001, then later Saitama Reinas between 2002 - 2004 and from 2005 until 2020, they were known as Urawa Red Diamond Ladies. But since achieving their spot in WE.League, the team name is Mitsubishi Heavy Industries Urawa Reds Ladies for sponsorship reasons, though most still refer to them as Urawa Red Ladies.
They are a side which have known relative success and featured in the top division since their inception. They have won the Nadeshiko League four times in 2004, 2009, 2014 and 2020. They have also finished runners up in the league three times and runners up in the Empress Cup five times.
Omiya Ardija Ventus
Founded in 1996 as Jūmonji Junior & Senior High School Soccer Team.
In 2014 they changed their name to FC Jumonji Ventus. They have spent most of their time in Nadeshiko Challenge League (Third Divison) and Nadeshiko League Division Two. In 2021, the made the decision to merge with male club Omiya Ardija (Who play in J2) and participate in WE League.
Originally founded in 1985 as a girls' team named the Azeria FC, it wasn't until 1991 when they changed their name to AS Elfen FC and began particpating in the regional women's football leagues. It was in the early 2000's that they started playing in the Nadeshiko League and fluctauted between the Challenge League (Third Divison) and Nadeshiko Divison Two. They have been known as Chifure AS Elfen Saitama since 2016, usally abbreviated to Elfen Saitama.
JEF United Chiba
JEF United Ichihara Chiba Ladies were founded in 1992 at the request of local women when JEF United were announced as the inaugural members of the J League. They have been known as JEF United Chiba Ladies since 2005 and gained their first promotion to Nadeshiko League Division 1 in 2009 where they have remained since. They have one trophy to their name which is in the form of the 2016 Nadeshiko League Cup.
NTV Tokyo Verdy Beleza
Founded in 1981 as a women's team at the Yomiuri Soccer Club. The clubs name was changed to Nippon TV Verdy Bellaza from 2000 following sponsorship from TV broadcaster, Nippon TV. In September 2009, Nippon TV withdrew from management. However the club name remains Nippon TV Beleza, due to the club signing a new contract of naming rights with Nippon TV.
They are the most successful women's football team, with major honours such as 17 league titles, 15 Empress's Cup championships and 6 League Cup championships.
Nojima Stella Kanagawa Sagamihara
The club were founded in 2012, as the women's football club of Nojima Co.Ltd, an electronics/appliance company. They were created with the aim of becoming the first Nadeshiko League 1st division team from the Kanagawa Prefecture.
In 2013, they were promoted to the Challenge League and were promoted to the Nadeshiko League second division in 2015. They earned promotion to Nadeshiko Divison 1 the following year and have remained in the top division since. Despite this, the team have always finished towards the the bottom of the table. But considering they were only formed less than 10 years ago, they have done incredibly well to gain promotion three times.
AC Nagano Parceiro
Founded in 2000 by the name of Ohara Gakuen JaSRA Women's Soccer Club. They have spent most of their footballing history floating between Divison One and Two of the Nadeshiko League. In 2009 they became affiliated with J3 side AC Nagano Parceiro and became AC Nagano Parceiro Ladies. Their best ever finish in Divison One came in 2016 when they finished in third place, but have never managed higher than that.
The side play in the Nagano U Stadium, which in Japan is one of the best soccer-specific stadiums, attracting high attendances in the league.
Founded in 2002 as the women's team of J2 side Albirex Niigata. They spent their first few seasons as a club in Divison 2, but were promoted to the first division of the Nadeshiko League in 2006, where the side has remained ever since. Whilst they have yet to win a trophy as a club, they have come close on four occassions, finishing runners-up in the Empress Cup in 2011, 2013, 2015 and 2016.
INAC Kobe Leonessa
Founded 20 years ago in 2001, Kobe Leonessa are arguably Japan's second best womens football team. After a few seasons in regional leagues following their formation, the club earned promotion to the first divsion of the Nadeshiko League in 2005 and have been in the top-flight ever since. In that time they have won the League Title three times in consectivue seasons (2011, 2012 and 2013) and also finished runners up in the league three times in 2008, 2016 and 2017. They have also won the Empress Cup six times in 2010, 2011, 2012, 2013, 2015 and 2016, finishing runners up once in 2008. The Kobe side also have one League Cup to their name, achieving the trophy in 2013 after finishing runners up the year before.
The club have produced and had many Japan National Team players, including seven squad players who won the World Cup with Japan in 2011
Sanfrecce Hiroshima Regina
A new club which was formed in 2020 with the goal of applying to participate in the newly created WE.League. This will be the clubs first professional season