It took far too long, but there’s finally some certainty over A-League expansion, with two new teams set to be named in October. So who will they be?
Among the myriad of high-profile candidates - extending the length and breadth of Australia - there’s opportunities to break into un-rivalled territory in Tassie, or stack the chips even higher in New South Wales.
But how do you pick a Western Sydney Wanderers, rather than a Gold Coast United? While many bids still don’t have physical-club representations, here’s the current favourites to be your next two A-League franchises…
- BRISBANE CITY
Brisbane City are a former NSL club and current Queensland NPL club based in the north-west Brisbane suburb of Newmarket. They're coached by former A-League coach, John Kosmina, and included in their bid are ambitious plans to redevelop 18,000 capacity Ballymore Stadium.
As a city, Brisbane are favourites to secure a second A-League club. The Roar are one of the A-League’s most successful teams, capable of average attendances exceeding 18,000 people. As Australia’s third largest city, they also have the infrastructure and investment.
Following the success of expansions clubs in Melbourne and Sydney, Brisbane seems one of FFA’s safest bets, however, Brisbane Roar’s precarious position – unstable ownership under the Bakrie Group and average attendances that have dropped by more than 10,000 in the last four years – may dissuade FFA from bringing in local competition.
- BRISBANE STRIKERS
While Brisbane City have already boasted about their 80-page official bid proposal, Brisbane Strikers are a slightly more-recent entry to the field. What the Strikers do have, however, is history on their side.
The reigning Queensland NPL champions were a force in the NSL - four-time finalists and Grand Final winners in 1996/97 (they famously drew over 40,000 people to that match).
They have a planned re-development of the Strikers’ homeground, Perry Park, as part of their bid. Strikers’ Chairman, Bruce Atterton-Evans, told Foxsports that the Strikers would be front-and-centre of any expansion conversation.
“I can assure our fans, and supporters of the game in Brisbane, that when FFA announces expansion plans, Brisbane Strikers will absolutely be at the forefront of that conversation,” he said.
- WOLLONGONG WOLVES
With the 23,000 capacity, rectangular WIN Stadium behind them and a population of close to 300,000 people, former NSL champions Wollongong Wolves have been a constant nomination for A-League expansion.
South Coast Football have already pledged their support behind the bid, while former Socceroos Scott Chipperfield and Adam Federici have acted as bid ambassadors.
“What really impresses me about the Wolves is they are engaging the entire region and genuinely looking to provide the best options and opportunities for our juniors,” Federici said.
- SOUTHERN EXPANSION
With Craig Foster and former NSW Premier Morris Iemma as their public face, Southern Expansion – encompassing the Illawarra, Sutherland and St. George regions – are the Wolves' major rivals to secure a franchise.
The bid has already former provisional partnerships with technology companies, stadiums like Kogorah and NRL club Cronulla Sharks. Iemma told The Australian that Southern Expansion can deliver.
“It is a no-brainer," he said. "If you want to expand into areas that are passionate about football, that have the numbers in terms of registrations, that have the population, that have a historical football background ... Southern Expansion can deliver all of that.”
5. SOUTH MELBOURNE
As ‘Oceania Club of the Century’, the former NSL powerhouse have been one of the most vocal bidders for an A-League franchise.
They boast a strong supporter base, their own facilities at 15,000 capacity Lakeside Stadium, relationships with football clubs across Asia and Europe and a previous commitment to marquee signings and coaches, including Roberto Carlos.
While South’s bid is a frontrunner, there have also been concerns that a third club in inner-Melbourne may over-saturate the market and that the club’s close-association with the Greek community may prevent a wider audience.
6. AUCKLAND CITY
While - given Wellington Phoenix and New Zealand Knights’ dismal record and fan attendances – the Australian public may shudder at the idea of a second New Zealand side entering the competition, it’s not worth dismissing Auckland entirely.
A second N.Z club may provide local fans a reason to consider themselves part of the A-League. It could build upon the strong rivalry between Wellington and Auckland, creating a fiery local derby and building media attention.
Auckland has a significant population, existing infrastructure and a stable club with a successful coach - Ramon Tribulietx even led the club to third in the 2014 FIFA Club World Cup.
7. TEAM 11
89 grassroots clubs, more than 12,000 registered players, 156 nationalities and a population of over 1.2 million gives South-East Melbourne candidates ‘Team 11’ a foothold in the A-League race.
The Dandenong region also has a rich production-history, including the likes of Jackson Irvine, Bailey Wright, Scott McDonald and Vince Grella. However, a lack of a pre-existing stadiums in Dandenong may incentivise FFA to consider other bids.
“This bid ticks all the boxes that Football Federation Australia would want from an expansion club,” Grella previously said.
8. TASMANIA UNITED
While it certainly didn’t happen by 2012 as they were hoping, the island-state has a huge, unsated appetite for sport. Tassie has no A-League, AFL, W-League, NRL, NBL, WNBL, NRL or Super League clubs to support, however a lack of rectangular stadiums may hold them back. There are, however, tentative plans for a rectangular stadium in Hobart.
While the ‘Tasmania United’ bid has been in the pipeline since 2005 with little success, Local M.P Andrew Wilkie remains a vocal proponent.
“I will continue to look for every opportunity in the Parliament to advocate for the establishment of a Tassie A-League team,” Wilkie previously said.
“Because, as I said in my question to the PM, it would be a wonderful rallying point for the community, inject millions of dollars into the economy, establish soccer as the only true national football code and boost TV audiences.”
9. CANBERRA UNITED
Building on the success of W-League club Canberra United, an A-League club in Australia’s capital ticks a lot of boxes. It’s the biggest Australian city without an A-League side, boasts a world-class rectangular stadium and is based somwhere that offers little competition for sporting punters over the summer.
Ned Zelic, Carl Valeri and Lydia Williams have pledged their support for a capital club, while Canberra also hosts the Australian Institute of Sport and formerly, FFA’s Centre of Excellence academy.
In rugby heartland, however, there are always questions over fanbase and financial viability. Especially when their own state’s member federation, Capital Football, said it has no desire to "own and operate" a team.