On Sunday, I drove to Tochigi to see a Tochigi SC home game. I currently work with a player on the squad and was invited to see what the fuss is all about. At the time Tochigi SC was in the top position in the JFL rankings, and with the top two amateur club teams at the end of the season offered a promotion into the J. League, a team in Tochigi's place attracts a lot of attention.
The crowd was larger than I expected for a JFL club at 3500 fans, including a full 9 fans who came to support the visiting team, ALO'S Hokuriku.
Tochigi played very well as did Hokuriku and the 1 - 1 tie was well deserved on both sides. I must say, though, that the level of play between JFL and J2 is much wider than that between J2 and J1. Given Tochigi's speed and flexibility, it seems they would make a good fit in the J2 and with professional experience would fit into a competitive groove in less than a couple of seasons.
At the moment Tochigi is in third place, and along with FC Gifu and Rosso Kumamoto, stands an excellent chance to enter J2 for the 2008 season. There is a lot of time left in the season but if this success continues J2 can see one or two new teams next year. It would be a great interest and boost to Mito soccer if the neighboring capital city of Utsunomiya could develop a derby and become a fresh opponent.