Canberra, Auckland next A-Leagues expansion targets
Canberra and Auckland are the A-Leagues' preferred markets for their next round of expansion ahead of the 2024-25 season.
They beat out 11 other contenders including north Queensland, Gold Coast and Wollongong and are now on track to join the competition in little more than 18 months, pending the finalisation of licence applications in June.
It's the latest development in Australia's footballing landscape after 32 clubs put their hats in the ring to join a national second-tier competition slated to start in March next year.
The four key criteria the markets were judged on included potential fan-base and if it would cannibalise existing fans, stadia and expanding the A-Leagues' footprint.
Canberra's bid will again be led by Michael Caggiano, who's remained in discussion with the governing bodies after Football Australia knocked back his bid in 2018 in favour of Macarthur and Western United.
Australian Professional Leagues CEO Danny Townsend said Canberra and Auckland teams joining the competition were not a formality, but they now had the chance to "show us how" they can make it work.
He said the ACT needed to prove it had the "component parts" of a successful football club to be formally awarded a licence.
"The stadium, training facilities, engagement with the local community ... corporate support from the ACT, government support ... those rocks ... need to be in the jar and we need to have a collective group of people to invest in that jar," he said.
"The market is ready, the football community wants a team, the women's team is there already that we want to enhance and invest in.
"There's no reason why it wouldn't (be a formality), but I wouldn't say it's a fait accompli."
Canberra hasn't had a team in the national men's top-tier since the Canberra Cosmos folded in 2001, while the Auckland-based Football Kingz folded in 2004.
It's not Auckland's first A-League experience, having hosted the New Zealand Knights for the competition's first two seasons before they had their licence revoked in 2007.
Townsend said the Knights' failure, due to poor crowds and on-field performance, didn't stop his confidence in taking a "better path".
"Auckland is the biggest metro city in Australia and New Zealand without a team," he said.
"We're not overly concerned about history and why things worked or didn't.
"Obviously we look at why the Knights didn't work and you learn from that."
Gaggiano said expanding through the APL process rather than via FA was "totally different", adding a Canberra-based team was a matter of "not if, but when and with whom".
"I've been working with the APL, they are genuinely engaged, interested and working with us on bringing football investment to Canberra," he said.
"This is about the best investor, not any investor. The best investor for this region that's going to contribute to football and to help football grow and be more valuable as a whole.
"It's not about who can drop the most money, it's about what's best for the game and best for the leagues."