W-League to expand to 12 before World Cup

·3-min read

The W-League will expand from nine to 12 teams by 2023 in a bid to capitalise on the looming Women's World Cup in Australia and New Zealand.

Wellington Phoenix, Central Coast and Western United will all receive W-League licences over the next two years, in the first expansion since Melbourne City joined in 2015.

Australian Professional Leagues (APL) managing director Danny Townsend says the "likely scenario" is one team will join for the upcoming season with the other two to enter before 2022-23.

"The Women's World Cup is an enormous opportunity for Australian sport, football and women's football and women's sport, so it's going to have a huge impact on all Australians," Townsend told AAP.

"But it's 30 days in 2023 - it doesn't deliver you everything. You need to work around it and you have to invest in it ahead of time to ensure the halo effect of that fantastic event will deliver a legacy for women's football.

"It's probably the most overused word, 'legacy', but investing ahead of that will ensure there is genuinely one.

"Women's football is going to go from strength to strength beyond that World Cup, but only if we sweat the asset and that's investing in it, which we're doing - on a number of different levels, not just expansion."

Wellington appear likely to join the W-League first, after they were close to securing a licence for last season, with Central Coast, who previously had a team for two seasons in 2008 and 2009, and United to follow a year later.

Macarthur FC were keen to have a licence but as they only entered the A-League last season, will be given time to plan.

Townsend emphasised the APL's commitment to independent club Canberra United.

The four-team W-League finals series will be expanded to three weeks this season, adding a preliminary final.

The 2021-22 regular season will remain at 12 rounds - with the 10th team replacing the 'bye' - but Townsend said adding teams would get the W-League "on that path" to a full home-and-away season.

Townsend was confident the pipeline of young talent was there to justify expansion.

A long-term collective bargaining agreement with the players' union will soon be finalised, while PFA co-chief executive Kate Gill hailed expansion as an "important step forward".

"The players have been vocal advocates for the growth of the competition and positively APL's women's football strategy will not only provide additional employment opportunities and match minutes for our talented players but deliver a healthy boost to the W-League in the lead up to the 2023 FIFA Women's World Cup," Gill said.

The APL is also introducing a 'Club Championship', to be won by the club with the most combined points at the end of the men's and women's seasons.

The W-League season doesn't start until November 13, but Townsend acknowledged the league would be prepared to push it back - if required - amid NSW and Victoria's coronavirus outbreaks.

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