The Roar
The Roar


The APL wants a 16-team A-League men's by 2026 - so after Auckland and Canberra, who's next?

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Roar Guru
4th October, 2023
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With the A-League set to expand to Auckland and Canberra, attention will soon turn to the next teams who will come in after that.

When it comes to the 15th and 16th teams the top contenders being talked about have been a second Queensland side and a side in Tasmania, although there are issues with both and neither is certain.

In regards to Brisbane, the issue of stadiums is still a big one, but looking better. Any team playing at Lang Park will face both its high fees and also have to compete with Roar, so I can’t see a new team working there. Redcliffe has a stadium but no bid. Then there was Ipswich, who were hoping to host an A-League side to prop up its NRL bid which failed, so that seems unlikely. No stadium there either.

Perry Park is always the popular choice, but also always problematic due to the PCYC. The best option might be Ballymore, which is being renovated into a modern 15000 capacity design, with seating for 10000 fans. Ballymore will also have upgraded transport links with a pedestrian bridge allowing a short walk from Wilston Station. With Brisbane City just a stone’s throw away, their bid looks like the best placed option in Brisbane if you’re looking for a Brisbane derby.

Western United

Western United lift the A-League Men trophy. (Photo by Dave Hewison/Speed Media/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)

Outside of Brisbane you have only the Gold Coast with an active bid, with plans for a boutique stadium at either Bundall or Pizzey Park. Considering that the Gold Coast has a population of 730,000 which will grow to a million within a generation, it’s pretty much impossible to look past.

As for the speculative Sunshine Coast, they will be building a boutique stadium for the Olympics that would be perfect for Sunshine Coast FC, located in a fast-growing region without a professional team in any football code. The new stadium is a real game changer for their chances.

Tasmania is a strong contender based on participation with four times that of Gold Coast, but the lack of a rectangular stadium is a major problem. However, their plans actually involve building a new “football hub” with a 7-10,000 seat “show pitch” for most matches at an unspecified green field location, with only big games set to be played on an oval.


As for other major cities, Perth and Adelaide are large enough for two teams but I doubt the interest is really there. They’d be better off starting in the second tier. That just leaves Melbourne.

With South Melbourne set to be the marquee club in the second tier, they’re out. This just leaves Dandenong as the only real option here. They still have a lot going for them, but with Melbourne City now claiming the area as home, a Dandenong side seems unlikely.

This finally brings us to Wollongong Wolves. With history, a fan base in place and ready-made derbies with three Sydney teams as well as Newcastle, Central Coast and Canberra, they have good reason to be included. The only things holding them back are some uncertainties around long term investment and the fact that they’re from New South Wales.

So, who should be next in?

Starting with the major cities. Probably none. While a new team in a major city will create derbies, they’ll just be a small team like Macarthur or Western United. A bit of interest locally, but not much interest from anyone else.

Regional teams might not be much different, but at least they mean more to locals in tight knit communities which you can build a strong culture around, like Central Coast. This leaves you with Gold Coast, Tasmania, Sunshine Coast and Wollongong.


The clear stand out has to be Gold Coast. As long as they can come through on a boutique stadium in a good location, they should be in. To ignore a market of this size would be a farce. The final choice though is less clear.

Wollongong Wolves

Could Wollongong Wolves fans soon be celebrating an A-League berth? (Photo by Brett Hemmings/Getty Images)

For Tasmania, I’d have to see more detail about their stadium plans. But based on their participation and clear identity, they’d be a solid choice. They’d bring plenty of character which is an x-factor, but I’d like to know more about the “football hub” first.

Wollongong would be an excellent choice, but having seven teams from New South Wales and Canberra might be a bit of an overload. Although this also has a clear upside.

But the dark horse is Sunshine Coast. It has a decent sized population and by having both teams in the competition alongside Brisbane, you’d have six derbies each season. That might help all three sides and help bring more media interest to the sport in the state.

The new stadium would suit a team perfectly and changes the conversation around them, while it also goes well with the new boutique stadium on the Gold Coast and the upgrade to Ballymore. There’s no current active bid from here though, so you would have to call for expressions of interest. But since that seems to be the current method for expansion, why not Sunshine Coast?


Out of Tasmania, Wollongong and Sunshine Coast it’s a hard choice. Wollongong is easily the best option, but Sunshine Coast could be more important strategically in Queensland. Tasmania is the outsider here and they will have work to do to really convince the suits.

This is a hard one. But I’m going to go out on a limb and pick Sunshine Coast. If a bid can be put together, then I think that building the game with three closely located clubs in Queensland, all with boutique stadiums, will do more for the league than adding Wollongong.

Although you could still add Tasmania and Wollongong by going to 18 teams…

But that’s another story.