A-League: What You Need to Know
The rise of the Matildas during the 2023 World Cup shone a spotlight on Australian soccer culture. Where did many of these players get their start? Where do some of them play now? How can Matildas fans support teams closer to home? The answer to all three of these questions is the same: the A-League Women.
What is the A-League?
The A-League Women is the top women’s soccer league in Australia. It was formed in 2008 after the Matildas made it to the quarterfinals of the 2007 World Cup as a way to continue to develop young Australian talent. There are 12 teams in the competition as of the 2023-24 season. All 12 of them are connected to an A-League Men side, except for Canberra United. The teams are:
Central Coast Mariners*
Western Sydney Wanderers
*The Central Coast Mariners return to the competition this season after a lack of funding forced them out of the league in 2010.
A-League seasons run from October to April, in Australia’s spring and summer. Like the NWSL and other American leagues, the A-League season culminates in a playoff series to determine a Champion. Teams also compete for the Premiership, which is given to the team that finishes first in the regular season, similar to the NWSL Shield. The reigning Champions (and Premiers) are Sydney FC. They’ve won the most Premierships and are tied with Melbourne Victory for the most Championship titles.
Due to the A-League’s complimentary schedule to the NWSL, many NWSL players have also played for A-League teams. Historically this was to continue earning money in the offseason (since the NWSL base salary was incredibly low) and to stay fit. Post-ratification of the NWSL CBA, which greatly increased players’ base salary, many players still go on loan to A-League teams to keep their fitness level up and gain experience in a new environment.
Many of the Matildas either got their start or still play in the A-League. The ones that still do include:
Lydia Williams and Emily Gielnik - Melbourne Victory
Cortnee Vine - Sydney FC
Tameka Yallop - Brisbane
Kyah Simon - Central Coast Mariners
A Quick Guide to the Teams
As with any league, the A-League has dynasties, plucky underdogs, and everything in between. Here’s a quick guide to every team (last season’s final table rank is listed beside team names.)
Sydney FC (1)
Sydney FC is the winningest soccer team in the A-League - four championships and five premierships speak for themselves. Their bench runs deep, their young talent is extraordinary, and their player acquisition strategies are top-notch. Because of their talent, much of their starting midfielders left for Europe. Can Sydney’s new midfield rise to the occasion and help make it a premiership three-peat?
Former players you may know: Megan Rapinoe, Aubrey Kingsbury, Emily Sonnett, Sofia Huerta
Melbourne City (3)
Captained by New Zealand fan favorite Rebekah Stott, Melbourne City consistently has one of the most exciting rosters in the A-League. In addition to Stott, Kiwi World Cup hero Hannah Wilkinson, and creative forward Rhianna Pollicina wear the City badge. Despite their roster, they haven’t found a coach who could recreate the magic of their 2020 championship and premiership win. Will Interim Head Coach Dario Vidošić be the one to step up?
Former players you may know: Jess Fishlock, Ashley Hatch, Claire Emslie, Steph Catley
Melbourne Victory (4)
The Victory are the second-most winningest club in the A-League, winning three championships and four premierships. They went out in the quarterfinals last season in a tense match against Sydney, their worst playoff finish since the 2017-18 season. The Victory need to figure out how to address their dip in quality. Anchored by Matildas star Lydia Williams, their backline is solid, but they must become more clinical in front of goal if they want to get back on top.
Former players you may know: Lynn Williams, Jodie Taylor, Lauren Barnes, Lisa De Vanna
Adelaide United (8)
Since their founding in 2008, Adelaide have only made the playoffs once, in the 2021-22 season. Two of their most prolific goalscorers have left. It’s not all bad news for Adelaide, though. Midfield stalwart Dylan Holmes can stabilize and play make at an incredibly high level. New signings, such as Mariah Lee and Alana Jancevski, are ready to rise to the challenge. Adelaide’s biggest worry: will the goals they set off the field translate to goals scored on the field?
Former players you may know: Abby Dahlkemper, Gunny Jónsdóttir, Charli Grant, Mary Fowler
Brisbane Roar (9)
Despite a lackluster season and the loss of fan-favorite goalkeeper Hensley Hancuff, Roar fans are energized for the upcoming season. Why? One name: Tameka Yallop. The Matildas player is coming back to the club where she started her professional career, scoring 55 goals in 129 appearances over her multiple stints in Brisbane. Will Yallop be enough to get the front line roaring again?
Former players you may know: Katrina Gorry, Mackenzie Arnold, Carson Pickett, Nadine Angerer
Canberra United (5)
Canberra has had a winning history (two championships and three premierships) but has slipped in recent years. They seem to have a consistency problem, such as last season when they won one game 5-1 and lost the next 5-0 (yes, these are real back-to-back scorelines.) Despite this problem, Canberra has some outrageously fun goalscoring talent such as fearless captain Michelle Heyman and crafty midfielder Vesna Milivojević. Can their defensive work rate match their offensive one this season?
Former players you may know: Ellie Carpenter, Lydia Williams, Simone Charley, Kristie Mewis
Newcastle Jets (10)
Like Adelaide, Newcastle have never won a championship. Their last playoff appearance was in the 2017-18 season. New signing Melina Ayres may change that. A prolific goalscorer, Ayres has the potential to make a serious challenge for the A-League Golden Boot if she can stay healthy. If she can, the bigger question for the Jets is: will the defense let in more goals than the front line can score?
Former players you may know: Tori Huster, Katie Stengel, Angela Salem, Emily van Egmond
Perth Glory (6)
The Glory won their last (and only) trophy in 2014, when a young striker named Sam Kerr took Perth to the premiership. Their last playoff appearance was in the 2018-19 season, but they’ve bet on the youth over the past few seasons to take them back to the top. In addition to this youth core, they’ve signed some exciting new players, such as North Carolina Courage forward Millie Farrow and Lewes FC defender Isobel Dalton. Is this the team that earns the name Glory?
Former players you may know: Sam Kerr, Rocky Rodríguez, Shelina Zadorsky, Vanessa DiBernardo
Western Sydney Wanderers (7)
Western Sydney is in a weird place at the moment. Their head coach was replaced 10 days before the season started with no explanation. While the roster has some great names such as Philippines star Sarina Bolden and consistent midfielder Angelique Hristodoulou, the Wanderers cannot seem to win. Will the coaching shakeup help them reach their potential or squander it?
Former players you may know: Sam Staab, Kristen Hamilton, Lo'eau LaBonta, Carmelina Moscato
New Kids on the Block
Central Coast Mariners (N/A)
Since the Mariners haven’t played in the A-League since 2009, it’s hard to get a read on them. How will the new team work as a group? What will their play style look like? Only time will tell. Mariners fans have many reasons to look forward to the upcoming season, namely Matildas player Kyah Simon’s return to the A-League after three years abroad.
Former players you may know: N/A
Wellington Phoenix (11)
The Phoenix did not have an ideal start to their time in the A-League, ending the 2022-23 season in last place. That being said, they’ve upped their recruitment game for this upcoming season exponentially, bringing in NWSL players Hope Breslin and Mariana Speckmaier and Liverpool goalkeeper Rylee Foster. Given these moves, Phoenix fans have a lot to look forward to in the new season.
Former players you may know: Grace Jale
Western United (2)
In a story that feels almost too good to be true, Western United made it all the way to the championship match in their inaugural season last year. The lethal combination of US star Jess McDonald and forward Hannah Keane was truly a force to be reckoned with. However, with McDonald having left the team to return to the NWSL, they faltered at the finish. Will new signing Catherine Zimmerman step up in her fellow American’s wake? Or will Western have to get creative to stay in the playoffs?
Former players you may know: Jess McDonald
A-League of their Own
The A-League is a beautiful combination of NWSL-style physicality and WSL tactics. Some matches are chess games, some look closer to wrestling matches, but it makes for a truly unpredictable and chaotic league. Any team is capable of winning any game. If the NWSL offseason leaves you clamoring for more soccer chaos, the A-League is for you.
Now that you’ve been acquainted with the A-League, one question’s left: where do I watch? Well, dear reader, if you live in North America, all games are streamed free on YouTube. Viewers in the United Kingdom can watch two matches per round through BT Sport. Streaming information for all countries can be found here.