The APL has announced that Canberra and Auckland are the next cities planned to enter the A-League Men’s competition in the 2024-25 season, per reports.
The announcement ends months of speculation as to the identity of the league’s newest expansion teams, concluding a process that has been ongoing for months.
Reports have emerged from multiple sources and publications that the blueprint is set for 16 teams across men and women competitions by the 2025/26 season, through an closed-tender process.
“We want to go and look at all the things that you need to deliver a really successful football club … so we can sort of build a club in a box, and then find the right owner for the box,” Townsend said.
Both Canberra and Auckland have been designated “preferred market status” per reports, with support and investment to be garnered and club licences hopefully to be awarded in June, with a view to kick-off in October 2024.
“This is not about investing in the A-League today, it’s about investing in where we’re headed, and we’re really confident the direction we’re headed is going to be one that will drive a lot more enterprise value in those licences,” Townsend said.
The news of an A-League Men’s team gracing the nation’s capital is set to be received positively by fans, with the city finally having a Men’s team to accompany the Canberra United women’s team that has competed in the A-League Women’s competition since 2008. The city itself has a rich football heritage, producing Socceroos such as Tom Rogic, Carl Valeri and Andy Bernal.
The choice to give a license to a second New Zealand team is also set to add an intriguing element to the league. In what is New Zealand’s largest city, it also creates the potential for a rivalry with current New Zealand side the Wellington Phoenix.
Auckland has had representation in the A-League, albeit briefly. The New Zealand Knights were the first New Zealand team to play in the league back in the first two seasons of the league. Playing out of North Harbour Stadium, the side performed poorly on and off the pitch, and were eventually replaced by the Phoenix in the 2007-08 season.
With the expansion sides set to enter the league at around the same time as the proposed National Second Division is slated to begin, it is set to give a massive shot in the arm to the domestic football landscape that has somewhat stagnated in recent years.
The two most recent expansion sides for the A-League Men’s, Western United and Macarthur FC, have had issues despite on field success for both. Western United have still not delivered on their promise of a football-specific stadium to be built in Tarneit, and look set to play out of a yet to be built training ground for the time being; this has led to them playing out of a series of home grounds not in their catchment area, affecting their crowd numbers.
Meanwhile, Macarthur have also struggled to connect and garner a significant following within the South-West Sydney community. They also recently parted ways with head coach Dwight Yorke, who subsequently made multiple allegations of how the set up of the club is unprofessional.