The WE League – Japan’s professional women’s league – has approved the membership of 11 founding clubs ahead of the inaugural 2021-22 season, it was announced on Thursday, October 16.
The 11 successful teams – seven of which are linked to professional men’s clubs – came from an initial list of 17 applicants, with the final number of members exceeding initial expectations of between six and 10 teams in the league’s first season.
The most successful club from the existing Nadeshiko League, 17-time national champions Nippon TV Tokyo Verdy Beleza, are among the approved WE League members, as are three-time title winners INAC Kobe Leonessa and Urawa Red Diamonds.
Also are included are women’s teams affiliated with professional men’s outfits Mynavi Sendai, JEF United Chiba, AC Parceiro Nagano and Albirex Niigata, with Sanfrecce Hiroshima and Omiya Adrija – who will absorb second-tier FC Jumonji Ventus – to launch new sides.
In a statement, WE League Chair Kikuko Okajima praised the quality of the bids and welcomed the new league’s founding members.
“I would like to express my sincere gratitude to all the people involved in the 17 organisations who applied for membership,” she said.
“We asked the club members to submit a huge amount of materials for the judging and to share their passion for the development of women’s football through individual hearings. All of the clubs were fascinating, so we debated the number of clubs at the selection committee and the board of directors, but finally decided to approve 11 clubs.”
“We are very pleased to welcome 11 wonderful clubs as part of the future WE League.”
The first season of the WE League will run on a 22-match double round-robin format, with the opening matches to be played in the Japanese autumn.
WE League – 2021/22 Member Clubs
Mynavi Sendai Ladies, Urawa Red Diamonds Ladies, Omiya Ardija, Chifure AS Elfen Saitama, JEF United Chiba Ladies, NTV Tokyo Verdy Beleza, Nojima Stella Kanagawa Sagamihara, AC Nagano Parceiro Ladies, Albirex Niigata Ladies, INAC Kobe Leonessa, Sanfrecce Hiroshima FC