Japan x League
The beginning of the league
Starting with Mitsubishi Jushi in 1961, companies began establishing and supporting teams and, in 1971, formed the Japan Shakaijin American Football League. ("Shakaijin" refers to a member of society, i.e., one who is no longer in school.) This was reorganized as the X-League in 1996. The Seagulls, then sponsored by Recruit, was among the original members.
Why was it called the 'X-League'? In choosing the name, the league wanted one that would reflect its objective of providing a high-level competition while nuturing productive members of society. The 'X' is meant to symbolize:
eXcellence eXpert eXciting
The mission of the league is to produce Expert players and teams who raise the level of the sport; provide Exciting players and teams who will appeal to more fans; and aspire to become an Excellent league that fosters the spread and development of American football in Japan.
The league is divided into four tiers, similar to the divisions in soccer leagues around the world. Top teams in the lower divisions can move up by winning playoffs against the bottom teams in the division above it.
The top tier consists of 18 teams and is divided into three divisions-East, Central and West-of six teams each. The East and Central divisions consist of teams in the Kanto region (east Japan, that includes Tokyo), while the West consists of teams from the Kansai region (west Japan, mainly Osaka).
The Seagulls has always been in the top tier since the launch of the X-League in 1996, and has never had a losing record in divisional play.
Season and playoff system
The regular season begins in September and runs through November. The playoffs are held in December, culminating in the Japan X Bowl for the league championship in late December, which draws a crowd up to 30, 000.
The winner of the league advances to the Rice Bowl, where they will face the collegiate champion on Jan. 3 for the national championship.
A new format for the regular season will begin with the 2016 season, one that includes inter-divisional games for the first time to allow for more games among the top teams prior to the postseason. Each team will play three divisional opponents and three from the other divisions closest to their relative strength, based on the standings from the previous season.
The second stage will consist of the top six teams advancing directly to the Japan X Bowl tournament, and the next four teams being be paired off for games in mid-November, with the two winners advancing as wild cards.
The Japan X Bowl tournament (in essence, starting with a quarterfinal round), will run to early December, with the two finalists advancing to the Japan X Bowl in mid-December to determine the league champion.
Company and club teams
The league consists of two types of teams-company and club-and all of the players are amateurs. Noone is paid to play. The company team is directly "owned" by a company and, for the most part, the players are employees of that firm. The club teams are supported by a sponsor or sponsors, with the players not limited to being employees of those companies. In most cases, one major corporation is the main sponsor and the team takes that company's name.