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FFA considered opening-round FIFA break

NZ Newswire logoNZ Newswire 28/06/2017 Emma Kemp

Football Federation Australia has decided not to push round one of the upcoming A-League season back to cater for potential Socceroos' World Cup qualifying play-offs and New Zealand internationals.

Should Australia finish third in their qualifying group, Ange Postecoglou's national team will face arduous play-off rounds starting with home and away games against another Asian nation on October 5 and 10.

The A-League draw, released on Wednesday, has the opening round starting on October 6, when Melbourne City will host Brisbane at AAMI Park, before champions Sydney FC travel to Etihad Stadium to meet Melbourne Victory in a blockbuster grand-final rematch on October 7.

It's long been a bone of contention among clubs that the A-League is one of the world's few domestic competitions that doesn't break for FIFA windows, leaving coaches without key players.

The situation is particularly bad for Wellington and Victory, whose squads are regularly shorn of Kiwi internationals.

While FFA has in the past stood firm in the face of calls to include international breaks, A-League chief Greg O'Rourke revealed the governing body had closely examined the possibility of doing so next season, at least for round one.

But after internal talks and communication with the Phoenix, it decided to stay "consistent with what we've done before".

"Depending on how Australia goes in World Cup qualifying we could find ourselves with round one sitting in the middle of one or two play-offs," O'Rourke said.

"We considered this at length, and one of the conversations we had was actually moving round one to be one week later.

"But when you go through the pros and cons of that and the situation is if, as we hope, Australia qualify and those qualifying rounds are not required, then there's a week of dead air in respect to the NRL and AFL is finished and the A-league is not present.

"Our want is not to be waiting for those qualifiers.

"But if they do happen, make it a mammoth football week where we've got Australia playing international qualifying followed by the opening round."

The Sydney derby will be moved from the first round despite last season's record-breaking attendance at ANZ Stadium, to make way for the grand-final replay - the first of Network Ten's live Saturday-night simulcasts.

The Sky Blues will host Western Sydney in round three at Allianz Stadium, while the first Melbourne derby will maintain its round-two spot.

The ratings and crowds battle with cricket will intensify via a jam-packed summer of football featuring 25 games in 25 days over December and January.

FFA has also sought to counter last season's flat home run by ensuring each club plays every opponent in the final nine rounds.

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