A-League

The A-League is the top professional soccer league in the Oceania region of the world, with teams from Australian and New Zealand competing annually. The league was founded in 2004 after the National Soccer League, the former top league in Australia, went under. The league first played in the 2005-2006 season, and is sponsored by Hyundai, meaning its official name is the Hyundai A-League. The roster of teams consists of nine from Australia and just one from New Zealand. The league has several main trophies it hands out each season, including the Pre-Season Cup, which is held in August annually, the regular season championship for the team with the most points, which earns the title of A-League Premiers, the season’s ending Grand Final title, and in the 2012-2013 season there will also be a special FFA Cup title that will earn one squad an entry into the Asian Football Confederation Champions League.

The regular season takes place during the hot Australian summer, from October through February. Each squad plays 27 contests during 25 weeks, for a total of three matches between each team in the A-League. This means that teams will play either two games at home or two on the road against a given squad, and in turn will play the opposite format the following year.

The 10 current squads participating in the A-League are:

  • Wellington Phoenix
  • Sydney FC
  • Perth Glory
  • Newcastle Jets
  • Melbourne Victory
  • Melbourne Heart
  • Gold Coast United
  • Central Coast Mariners
  • Brisbane Roar
  • Adelaide United

The Finals Series takes place at the end of the regular season and includes the teams with the top six records. In this format the top two teams take play to see which team heads straight to the Grand Final. The loser then awaits the winner of a series of games between the lower ranked squads, and the winner of this match-up eventually plays the winner of the first contest between the two top ranked teams. Since 2006-2007, the winner of the Grand Final has been granted entry into the AFC Champions League.

The FFA Cup will take place from March 2012 through January 2013, and will spice up the A-League landscape. The tournament is scheduled to be a knock-out competition, with all games to occur in midweek play and the final to take place on Australia Day (January 26th). All soccer clubs from the region will be allowed to enter into the tournament, but will have to compete in previous knockout rounds in order to eventually spar with the A-League squads in the final-32 phase. The winner is purported to be gaining entry into the AFC Champions League.

The league, while still quite young, has already been looking into expansion. Many question this idea, however, due to a lack of profit for the teams already in play. On the other hand, the league has several interesting safeguards in place to prevent its teams from going under, including a salary cap, a requirement of at least three under-20 players on the roster of 20 to 23, with a maximum of five foreign players.