MELBOURNE (Reuters) – Australia’s professional women’s soccer league will have three new expansion teams by the time the country co-hosts the 2023 Women’s World Cup with New Zealand, organisers said on Friday.
Central Coast Mariners, Western United and New Zealand-based Wellington Phoenix, all clubs in the Australian men’s A-League, have committed to fielding W-League sides over the next two seasons, Australian Professional Leagues (APL) said in a statement.
“This is just the beginning of a sustained investment programme in women’s football,” said APL boss Danny Townsend.
“We want to unleash football’s potential in Australia and this is a significant step forward in delivering the future that the game deserves.”
The timetable for expansion will be finalised in coming weeks.
It will be the first expansion to the W-League since Melbourne City joined as its ninth team in 2015.
Central Coast, which had a short-lived W-League team before it dissolved in 2009, said they aimed to rejoin the league for the 2022/23 season.
“We are adamant that our W-League team will require and use all the resources provided to them, in parity to our A-League team and the standards we uphold for them,” Central Coast boss Shaun Mielekamp said.
Australia has hiked investment in women’s soccer in recent years but base salaries for players are a fraction of those enjoyed by their male counterparts in the A-League.
The W-League also faces challenges retaining talent as top players are increasingly lured offshore to take more lucrative contracts in British and French leagues.
(Reporting by Ian Ransom in Melbourne; Editing by Richard Pullin)