The J-League, Japan's first professional league, was founded in 1992 with 10 clubs. For the first year, they played a cup competition only, debuting the first league matches in 1993. That first season was played in two 18-match stages, named after their sponsors as the Suntory Series (the first stage) and the NICOS Series (the second stage). The teams at the top of the table at the end of each stage then met in the two-leg Suntory Championship in Tokyo to decide the title.
Kashima, as first-stage winners, and Verdy, the second-stage winners, played the first leg on 9 January 1994, with Verdy emerging as 2-0 victors with goals from playmaker Kazuyoshi Miura (60') and Brazilian midfielder Bismarck Faria (89'). In the second leg, Kashima closed the gap with a 38th-minute striker from Brazilian forward Alcindo Sartori, but Kazu restored the two-goal advantage by finding the back of the net in the 82nd minute.
Verdy repeated as champions the following season, but Kashima have come on strong, winning seven titles starting in 1996 and including each of the last three seasons.