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Australian A-League Men season preview and history of football in Australia

Australia's A-League season kicks off in October. Read our need-to-know guide to the 2022-2023 season; every club, its history, and the favourites.
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Although the European season is now up and running, fans down under in Australia (and New Zealand) have to wait until October to get their first taste of domestic football. While other sports such as rugby, cricket and Aussie Rules Football are seen as the most popular in Australia, the country’s premier football league, the A-League, has been growing in popularity in recent years.

Over 3.6 million Australians support an A-League club, while 1.5 million people regularly watch televised games. However, this is 2 million less than the 3.5 million who watch soccer games from other leagues. Nevertheless, there is support for the A-League from Australian soccer fans with plenty of opportunities for the game to grow. With growing television figures for the A-League and its women’s football equivalent, the W-League, analysts think soccer could be on par with other popular sports in Australia by 2030.

With the 2022-2023 season fast approaching, here is our comprehensive guide on everything you need to know about Australia’s A-League.

History of the A-league and football in Australia

A Brief History of Football in Australia

It is believed that some of the first immigrants in the early nineteenth century to Australia played some form of ball-based sport. However, it wasn’t until the 1880s and 1890s that Football Association rules, football as we know it today, was played in areas such as Sydney, Queensland, Western Australian, and Southern Australia.

Australia’s football body, Football Australia, has existed in various different forms since the early 1900s. In 2003, the Australia Soccer Association was created, but would only exist for two years as it became Football Federation Australia. This coincided with the launch of the A-League, which replaced the disbandment of the National Soccer League (NSL) in 2004.

Fast-forward to 2020, and Australia’s football governing body became known as Football Australia (FA). However, this corresponded with the decision to unbind the A-League, W-League, Y-League (youth football), and E-League (eSports) from the FA to an independent body called the ‘Australian Professional Leagues’. The APL is a consortium made up of the A-League clubs and their owners, with certain rights held by the FFA, and a capital investment and ownership stake held by American firm, Silver Lake.

The History of the Australian A-League

The inaugural season of the A-League began on 26th August 2005. It consisted of eight teams; Adelaide United, Central Coast Mariners, Melbourne Victory, Newcastle Jets, Perth Glory, Queensland Roar, Sydney FC, and New Zealand Knights. Each club was given a five-year exclusivity deal in its own market as part of the league’s “one-city, one-team” policy.

How does the Australian A-League work?

Initially, the league consisted of 21 fixtures with the top 4 going through to the ‘Finals Series’, whilst the team who finished first would be named as Premiers, and awarded the Premier’s Plate.

The ‘Finals Series’ would be played in a modified playoff format. The top 2 teams played each other in the ‘Upper final’ over two legs, with the winner going straight through to the Grand Final. The teams that finished 3rd and 4th in the league played a two-legged ‘minor semi-final’ with the winner then going on to face the loser of the ‘Upper Final’ in what was known as the Preliminary ‘lower’ Final. The winner of this match would face the ‘Upper Final’ in the Grand Final. At the end of the 2005-2006 season, Adelaide United were crowned Premiers with Sydney FC becoming Champions after defeating Central Coast Mariners in the Grand Final. The Champions are awarded the A-League Champions Trophy, which has been given the nickname of the “Toilet Seat” due to its shape.

Since 2010, the Final Series has been expanded to six teams. While from 2007, the Premiers and Champions have qualified for the AFC (Asian Football Confederation) Champions League. So far only one A-League club has won the ACL; Western Sydney Wanderers in 2014.

The 2022–23 A-League will be its 18th season and will consist of 26 rounds of regular season games.

How many teams are in the A-League and who are they?

Out of the 8 founding clubs, all but one still exist as New Zealand Knights was dissolved in 2007. Furthermore, Gold Coast United and North Queensland Fury have both joined and left the league since its inception.

The A-League now consists of 12 clubs. In addition to the seven founding clubs (Adelaide United, Central Coast Mariners, Melbourne Victory, Newcastle Jets, Perth Glory, Queensland Roar, and Sydney FC), the other five clubs in the A-League are Melbourne City, Western Sydney Wanderers, Western United, the latest addition Macarthur FC, and Wellington Phoenix, New Zealand’s only representation in the league.

Adelaide United A-League Stadium
Adelaide United play their home games at Coopers Stadium

Adelaide United

Despite being founding Premiers, Adelaide United have seen limited success since. They last saw success in 2016, when they were both Premiers and Champions. Nevertheless, It has built a strong culture, and incubated young talent from the area, which has served as transfer bait. They will be looking to rely on goals from forward and captain Craig Goodwin as they look to improve on a 4th placed finish last season.

Brisbane Roar

As two-time Premiers and three-time Champions, Brisbane Roar aren’t a side not to be ignored. Their faith in youth and play under Warren Moon is refreshingly different from the A-League men’s pragmatic norm. However, 2021-2022 was a season to forget, finishing 11th. They’ll be looking to finish in front of goal this season, as last year it hampered the Roar’s ability to control or stay in games, especially with new arrival Charlie Austin now at the front.

Central Coast Mariners

“The Coasties” are often seen as underdogs but that hasn’t deterred them from being two-time Premiers and a one-time Champion. This season they’ll be looking to build on the momentum of last season. Having finished 5th in the regular A-League season, they also reached the final of the FFA Cup losing out to Melbourne Victory. Nevertheless, with Scottish striker Jason Cummings and new Ghanian arrival Paul Ayongo leading their forward line, Central Coast Mariners could be ones to watch.

 

Dwight Yorke A-League
Former Sydney FC and Manchester United striker Dwight Yorke is taking his first steps into management with Macarthur FC.

Macarthur FC

2022-2023 will be Macarthur FC’s only third season in the A-League. While they reached the Semi-Finals in their inaugural season, they missed out on Finals qualification last season, finishing 7th. However, this year marks a new chapter with UEFA Champions League winner, Dwight Yorke, coming in as manager. While he has vast playing experience, including a stint at Sydney FC in 2005-2006, this is his foray into management. His arrival has seen him bring in emerging Australian international winger, Daniel Arzani, from Manchester City. Whereas Mexican forward Ulises Davila will be looking to expand on his goal return of seven last year.

Melbourne City

Originally known as Melbourne Heart, the club was renamed Melbourne City in 2014 after being taken over by the City Football Group. Having adopted the sky blue of affiliated clubs, Manchester City and New York City FC, Melbourne have found plenty of success in recent years. They’re currently back-to-back Premiership winners, and will be looking to make it a hat-trick this season. While they’ll be looking to go one step further in the Finals Series, having been defeated in last year’s Grand Final.

Melbourne Victory

Last year’s A-League runners-up, Melbourne Victory, have added Portuguese winger Nani to their ranks as manager Tony Popovic continues to steady the ship after a chaotic few seasons. 2019-2020 and 2020-2021 saw the Victory have five managers, finishing 12 in the latter season. However, with goals from Nick D’Agostino last season helped Victory re-establish themselves as a force in the A-League.

Newcastle Jets Celebrate 2008
Newcastle Jets lift the “toilet seat” after becoming A-League Champions in 2008.

Newcastle Jets

It has been a difficult couple of years for the New South Wales club. Former owner Martin Lee was stripped of his A-League license. However, a group of A-League investors from Sydney FC, Western Sydney Wanderers and Western United took over the funding of the club, allowing Newcastle Jets to remain in the A-League. On the field, success has been limited having won their only Championship in 2008. 2022-2023 will see the Jets look to stabilise themselves, both on and off the pitch. The incoming Perth Glory trio of Brandon O’Neill, Daniel Stynes, and Callum Timmins along with one-capped England international Carl Jenkinson should achieve this.

Perth Glory

Considered by some as A-League’s “travelling circus”, due to being the only East Coast side in the league, Perth Glory had a season to forget last season. With only four wins and 20 goals scored, they finished bottom of the A-League with just 18 points; 8 points off 11th placed Brisbane Roar. The only way for “The Glory” now is up. With former player Ruben Zadkovich in charge, he’s bought in experience English league players Mark Beevers and Ryan Williams to support a heavily youthful side. While Uruguayan-born Aussie striker Bruno Fornaroli will be looking to add to his impressive tally of 34 games in 70 games so far for Perth.

Jack Rodwell Sunderland
Sydney FC have added ex-Sunderland player Jack Rodwell to their 2022-2023 roster.

Sydney FC

With five Championships and four Premiers to their name, it’s no surprise Sydney FC are one of the most popular A-League sides. The team is known as the “Harboursiders” were considered to be constant contenders but failed to qualify for the Finals Series last season, finishing 8th. However, with former Manchester City and Sunderland midfielder, Jack Rodwell, as well as ex-Nottingham Forest winger Joe Lolley, joining fellow Englishman Adam Le Fondre, Sydney FC will be looking to get things back on track this season.

Wellington Phoenix

New Zealand’s offering to the A-League, Wellington Phoenix, had a promising 2021-2022. Despite playing their home games in various stadiums due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the Yellow Army snuck into the Finals but would quickly be eliminated by Western United. This season they’ll be relying on goals from experienced forward Kosta Barbarouses, who has replaced departed Mexican winger Gael Sandoval.

Western Sydney Wanderers

The A-League’s only ACL winners, Western Sydney Wanderers, have considerably been on a decline since the success of their early years. Having been crowned Premiers in their debut season (2012-2013), their 10th placed finish last season was their worst to date. This summer has seen a squad overhaul with an emphasis on experience. Wanderers will be looking at French midfielder Romain Amalfitano, former Bordeaux defender Marcelo, and Bosnian forward Sulejman Krpić, to help revive themselves.

Western United Fans A-League
Western United fans will be looking to celebrate another A-League Championship this season.

Western United

Based in the western Melbourne suburb of Truganina, Western United are a young club still growing. However, they found success as Champions last season defeating their Melbourne City neighbours 2-0 in the Grand Final. They’ll be looking at Aleksandar Prijović for goals as they enter their fourth season in the A-League. While assists will come from Aussie pairing Ben Garuccio and Lachlan Wales, as they aim to add to last year’s success.

Who has won the most A-League titles?

Since launching in 2005, eight teams each have won crowned Premiers and Champions. Sydney FC are the most successful A-League side with four Premiers and five Champions trophies.

Premiers (Regular A-League season winner)

  • 2005-2006 – Sydney FC
  • 2006-2007 – Melbourne Victory
  • 2007-2008 – Newcastle Jets
  • 2008-2009 – Melbourne Victory
  • 2009-2010 – Sydney FC
  • 2010-2011 – Brisbane Roar
  • 2011-2012 – Brisbane Roar
  • 2012-2013 – Central Coast Mariners
  • 2013-2014 – Brisbane Roar
  • 2014-2015 – Melbourne Victory
  • 2015-2016 – Adelaide United
  • 2016-2017 – Sydney FC
  • 2017-2018 – Melbourne Victory
  • 2018-2019 – Sydney FC
  • 2019-2020 – Sydney FC
  • 2020-2021 – Melbourne City
  • 2021-2022 – Western United

Champions (A-League Finals winners)

  • 2005-2006 – Adelaide United
  • 2006-2007 – Melbourne Victory
  • 2007-2008 – Central Coast Mariners
  • 2008-2009 – Melbourne Victory
  • 2009-2010 – Sydney FC
  • 2010-2011 – Brisbane Roar
  • 2011-2012 – Central Coast Mariners
  • 2012-2013 – Western Sydney Wanderers
  • 2013-2014 – Brisbane Roar
  • 2014-2015 – Melbourne Victory
  • 2015-2016 – Adelaide United
  • 2016-2017 – Sydney FC
  • 2017-2018 – Sydney FC
  • 2018-2019 – Perth Glory
  • 2019-2020 – Sydney FC
  • 2020-2021 – Melbourne City
  • 2021-2022 – Melbourne City

Who are the favourites for this season’s A-league?

As back-to-back Finals Champions, Melbourne City are considered the favourites to become A-League Champions again. They’re closely followed by neighbouring Melbourne Victory, Western United, Sydney FC and Macarthur FC.

If you’re thinking of pinning your hopes on Brisbane Roar, Wellington Phoenix, or Perth Glory, then you might have to think twice, as all three are clear outsiders. We’ve listed the favourites for the A-League for your consideration below:

  • Melbourne City – 4.00
  • Melbourne Victory – 5.00
  • Western United – 6.00
  • Sydney FC – 7.50
  • Macarthur FC – 10.00
  • Western Sydney Wanderers – 12.00
  • Newcastle Jets – 13.00
  • Adelaide United – 13.00
  • Central Coast Mariners – 17.00
  • Brisbane Roar – 21.00
  • Perth Glory – 34.00
  • Wellington Phoenix – 34.00

Where and how can I watch the A-League in the UK?

Australia’s A-League Men is one of several league’s BT Sport broadcasts in the UK. It is one of the 173 countries that show the A-League around the world.

Last season, BT Sport televised five live games a week, along with coverage of the Finals Series play-offs, the A-League Grand Final and the Australian FFA Cup

5 a side football near me
(London league finder)