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Organisers of the 2015 Asian Cup want the A-League to take a break for the three weeks of what they say will be the biggest soccer event ever held in Australia.
The draw for the event’s qualifying rounds was held in Melbourne on Tuesday night, but Australia are already through to the finals to be held in January 2015 due both to their host nation status and runners-up finish in 2011 in Qatar.
Sydney will host the final, expected to be played on January 31, the same weekend as the Australian Open tennis finals in Melbourne, with Sydney to also host the two semi-finals.
Melbourne will host the Asian Cup’s opening match, on the weekend of January 8, but missed out on the games at the business end of the tournament, partly to avoid clashing with the tennis grand slam event.
The Asian Cup’s Local Organising Committee (LOC) say while it was a crowded period in the sport and event markets, the tournament wants to avoid clashing with their own sport.
“The two potential solutions are that we continue the A-League in centres which are not hosting games or have a two or three-week mid-season break.” LOC deputy chief executive Shane Harmon said on Tuesday night.
As well as Sydney and Melbourne, matches will be played at Canberra Stadium and in Brisbane, almost certainly at Suncorp Stadium.
That leaves Perth, Adelaide, Wellington and Newcastle as potential A-League venues if the domestic competition continues.
LOC chief executive Michael Brown said the event had the capacity to leave a lasting legacy for the sport in Australia and Football Federation Australia (FFA) needed to make the most of it.
“This has got to be their marketing because this is the biggest football event that will be held in this country,” Brown said.
“And arguably with 2.5 billion people (potentially) watching on television it will be the most televised event this country will have for a long time.”
Japan, South Korea and North Korea are also already qualified for what will be a 16-nation event.
There will be six group games and a quarter-final in each of the host cities.
The Socceroos will play a group game in each of Sydney, Melbourne and Brisbane and if they reach the last eight, their quarter-final is unlikely to be in Sydney, given that city is hosting the matches that follow.
FFA chairman Frank Lowy said suspending the A-League would be considered.
“We haven’t quite put our timetable on that yet but it may be possible to do that,” Lowy said.
China face a tough qualifying path, drawn alongside Iraq, Saudi Arabia and Indonesia, with the top two from each of five four-team groups to qualify, along with the best-performed third-placed team.