This season marks the start of a new scheduling format, one aimed at increasing competitiveness in the regular season and eliminating many of the mismatches of the past.
The 18 teams will still be aligned into three divisions of six teams each, with the East and Central Divisions comprising Kanto region teams and the West Division being made up of the Kansai teams.
The teams will also be split into two groups of nine each, with the top nine ranking teams from the previous season (top three in each division) comprising the Super 9. The lower nine make up the Battle 9.
The big difference this season is that instead of each team playing all five teams in their own division, the teams will play three games within their division, and another three against teams outside of their division, all of which are equal in strength. The relative strength has been determined by the previous season's standings.
This also allows teams from the Kanto and Kansai regions to play against each other before the postseason for the first time.
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The second stage and final stage (semifinals and final) that were introduced in 2009 have been replaced by an eight-team playoff (Japan X Bowl Tournament).
Following the regular season, the top six teams among the Super 9 will advance to the Japan X Bowl Tournament, where they will be seeded according to regular-season results.
The remaining two places will be filled by the winners of two wild-card playoffs to be played between the 7th and 8th ranked teams of the Super 9 and the top two teams from the Battle 9, respectively.