A-League set for AFL-style draw
The accession of one extra team next season means the A-League faces the prospect of an AFL-style draw, with teams playing each other an unequal number of times in 2019-20.
Football Federation Australia admitted that a variety of options are on the table when it builds next year's fixture list to incorporate the Western Melbourne consortium granted entry for next season.
Having each team play each other home and away, including a bye for one team each round, would create a season of just 22 rounds plus finals, while A-League bosses have already ruled out keeping to the current model of three encounters each as too unwieldy with 11 teams.
The answer is likely to lie somewhere in between, with A-League boss Greg O'Rourke admitting there is no firm idea yet of what shape the season will take, despite the months of work undertaken on expansion.
The options under consideration are 23, 25, 27, 29 and 31 rounds - though to complicate matters, Fox Sports has already indicated it is unwilling to agree to an increase of the current total of 140 games. The number of games will change again the season after when Macarthur South West United enter the competition.
"From a draw point of view there's now five options (for 2019-20)," said O'Rourke. "The first thing is obviously there'll be a bye. So there'll still be the same amount of matches each weekend which will be the five A-League matches with the 11th team having the bye.
"Do we just start with a full home-and-away plus finals series which effectively is around 22 rounds? Or do we go all the way up? One of the advantages of this staged approach is that now we can enter full consultation about that sixth match around the timeslot and day etc with the existing A-League clubs, the PFA and also our board."
The prospect of some teams playing each other twice and other - more glamorous - fixtures being played a third time is likely to sit uneasily with many football fans, but O'Rourke defended what he said was a necessary "transitional step" on the way to a 14-team competition with a normal home and away season.
"It's not a perfect outcome by any means, but if you move to ultimately one of our goals which is to go to 14 teams, then you have a much more balanced, full home-and-away potential," O'Rourke said.
"It's not unique (to have an unbalanced draw) and there are many sports around the world including some here in Australia which do not have full home-and-away.
"We believe it's a transitional step so we'll go home and away plus some other metric to make up what we decided is the end of the round as we transition ultimately hopefully to a 14-team competition."
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