TOKYO (Kyodo) -- Kashima Antlers manager Naoki Soma will step down at the end of the season, the J-League first-division side said Sunday.
The 50-year-old former Japan left-back was promoted from his coaching role after Antonio Carlos Zago was sacked in April following a poor start to the season. Soma rebuilt the team and guided his old club to a fourth-place J1 finish.
The Antlers fell one place short of automatic qualification for next season's Asian Champions League but will receive a berth if J1 champions Kawasaki Frontale also win the Emperor's Cup.
Kashima have only had Japanese or Brazilian managers since the inauguration of the J-League in 1993 but are considering appointing a European to the position.
"I'm wholeheartedly hoping that we can get a title (next year), something we could not achieve this season," Soma said through Kashima.