The 2021-22 A-League Men’s season has only just begun but there are renewed hopes the competition could expand in time for the next campaign.
A recent report claimed the Australian Professional Leagues (APL) are looking closely at adding new clubs with only 12 currently competing in the A-League Men.
It’s expected two teams will be added by 2023 with a 16-team competition seen as the ultimate end goal to ensure a balanced 30-round season.
A 14-team competition will in the short-term bring greater balance to fixtures with Adelaide United coach Carl Veart recently calling the A-League Men ‘unfair’ in regards to the uneven number of times a club faces opposing teams in the regular season.
So with expansion firmly on the horizon, Sporting News looks at the clubs and regions hoping to be added to the competition…
The only A-League Women club without a male counterpart, Canberra United have long been seen as a logical addition to the A-League Men.
United have enjoyed success in A-League Women, already have an established fan base and would bring the men’s competition to a previously untapped market.
The Australian Capital Territory have also proven they are capable of hosting successful sporting teams.
After missing out when the A-League Men last expanded, it would be hard to go past a Canberra-based side again with their addition also logistically a bit easier for a competition already heavily centred around the eastern seaboard.
Another team in New South Wales might sound unlikely, but Wollongong Wolves have proved they’re capable of stepping up to the top-flight.
The National Premier League outfit regularly make the final stages of the FFA Cup and have been a powerhouse in the NPL for some years now.
NSW’s south coast also remains an overlooked football market with Wellington Phoenix attracting solid crowds last season when they were based out of WIN Stadium.
With former Socceroo Luke Wilkshire at the helm and clear ambitions to join the A-League Men, Wollongong will back their chances of securing an expansion spot in the near future.
— Wollongong Wolves (@WollGongWOLVES) November 22, 2021
Gold Coast United 2.0
While their last foray into the A-League Men lasted just three seasons under the ownership of Clive Palmer, the club and region remain a reasonable shot at securing a return.
Creating another Queensland derby would bring immense value to the competition and Gold Coast United have reestablished themselves as a suitable option in recent years.
Returning in 2017 after a merger between Gold Coast Galaxy and Gold Coast Athletic, United have carved out some stability on the pitch at NPL level with ambitions of playing at a higher level.
“We’ve notified [FA] we’d like to participate in a second division but absolutely we’d prefer to immediately go back in the A-League,” Gold Coast United chairman Danny Maher told FNR in 2020.
“It’s important to gather the local support and we certainly have the structures and programs to connect to the local community, but it’s also important to think about what the attractiveness of the Gold Coast as a location does for the league and a local derby for the Roar.
“The Gold Coast right now, we’re ready to go. We have a stadium worth a 170 million dollars [Robina] now that’s almost empty all year so we can play there and we’re going to build a brand-new modern stadium.”
Another team from anywhere else in Queensland will also back their chances with the state crying out for a second A-League Men club.
Brisbane City and Western Pride both made bids for expansion last time around and could do so again.
They’ve been knocking on the A-League door for over a decade now and Tasmania’s state government seem ready to just about knock it down.
Premier Peter Gutwein has been pushing the state’s sporting interests strongly with Tasmania recently landing a National Basketball League side in the JackJumpers.
An A-League Men’s team would seem a logical next step with the state no stranger to the competition having hosted Western United matches last season.
“A few years ago we started on this journey and there were some discussions. I think it’s a great opportunity now, it’s certainly a priority of government to progress an A-League bid,” Gutwein told WIN News earlier this year.
“At this stage I won’t mention any interested parties, that’s a matter for them. But we’re well engaged and there’s a great opportunity here.
“We are a state of a federated nation. To have national leagues where one of the states doesn’t play a part doesn’t make sense to me nor is it fair nor right.
“It won’t be as expensive as an AFL team and at this stage in terms of the financial arrangements we’re very much in an early stage.”
With Wellington Phoenix now firmly established in the competition following a tough few years, a second New Zealand team could be a possibility.
A club from Auckland would make the most sense and in turn create a tantalising Kiwi derby.
The appetite for football is also clearly there in Auckland with 22,233 fans turning out when the Nix played at Eden Park in the A-League Men last season.
Logistically, a second New Zealand with COVID-19 still lurking could prove problematic, however, with Wellington currently forced to base themselves in Australia.
Fremantle City were part of the bidding process last time around and may try their luck again to form a derby over in Western Australia.
A second team from South Australia could also state their case with West Adelaide falling short in 2019.
A club from the Northern Territory might yet put their hand up with the region desperate for greater sporting representation on the national stage.
While it’s hard to see Melbourne getting a fourth A-League Men’s club, historic NPL side South Melbourne could back themselves to make a case if given the chance.