APIA Leichhardt celebrate winning the NPL NSW Men's competition for 2023. Photo Credit: APIA Leichhardt/Facebook

After confirming the launch and foundation clubs of the national second tier, Football Australia has revealed that a Champions League format for the NPL playoff series could be on the cards for next season.

Football in Australia took a significant step on Monday following the confirmation that Preston Lions, South Melbourne, Avondale, APIA Leichhardt, Marconi Stallions, Sydney Olympic, Sydney United 58, and Wollongong Wolves will be the foundation teams of a national second-tier division.

The reveal and establishment of a new division comes after an increase in growth and popularity in the sport after the FIFA World Cup 2022 and FIFA Women’s World Cup earlier this year – an event that saw a record number of viewers tune into games across the country.

Football Australia has now turned attention to introducing a Champions League for the men’s competition at the back end of the 2024 NPL season and a women’s Champions League competition to start the following year.

As stated by Football Australia CEO James Johnson, the tournament will mean that the top clubs from around the country will take on each other, and more matches will be played across Australia.

As teams prepare for the introduction of this tournament, it is unknown what will happen to the Australia Cup.

However, it is likely to continue, meaning fans will have two tournaments to watch along with the A-League, NST (National Second Tier) and NPL (National Premier League) during the calendar year.

“We’re exploring a Champions League in a playoff series at the back end of the 2024 NPL Men’s season, and the same format at the back end of the 2025 NPL season for the women,” Johnson said at a media conference on Monday.

“We’re not just competing with big nations around the world. It’s not just England and Germany and Italy anymore.”

“We’re competing with countries like Japan and Saudi Arabia and if we want to lift our standards and we want to continue to be a leader, even in our own confederation, we need more clubs across the country.”

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“We’re focused on the second tier for the men’s but also introducing a Champions League goal to the third tier, which will be the NPL. This is the first step for us in terms of investment into club women’s football, which we thought a lot about,” he added.

“When we discussed about the NPL creating a Champions League, we want to grow that level of the pyramid as well, and if we can have three strong levels – I’m talking to the men’s side here for the time being – you have the NPL, which is your third tier.

“You then have a second-tier competition that’s played 10 or 12 teams home and away.”

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