A-League Women announces expansion, longer season ahead of home World Cup

The A-League Women will be expanded to full home and away for the upcoming season, as the league attempts to boost its quality and attract top talent ahead of the Women's World Cup.

The Australian Professional Leagues (APL) confirmed the league will expand to 11 teams with a 20-round regular season, plus four finals games, for 2022-23 and 12 teams with a 22-round regular season, plus seven finals, the following season.

- Lynch: ALW expansion is a huge win for football

Western United will join for the upcoming season, scheduled to commence on Nov. 18, with Central Coast following in 2023-24.

It means by 2024, the ALW's total available playing minutes (excluding finals) will rise to 1980, a figure in line with the NWSL, WSL and Division 1 Feminine.

"[We] did a huge amount of work trying to find the right balance to get more playing opportunities for young aspiring Australian female footballers, but probably just as important, if not more important, more minutes and more matches," APL chief executive officer Danny Townsend told reporters.

"We've found a good balance there. It's something that we've been really thinking through.

"Being able to do it and announce it now with the Women's World Cup right around the corner, the time is now for women's football and we want to get out ahead of that."

The exodus of Matildas to Europe, with many citing the need for more playing time at a high level, has harmed the ALW's quality.

Townsend conceded it was inevitable top players would depart, but wanted Australia to be an option over Europe's lower leagues.

"We've got to make sure that we make it clear that moving to a second-tier league in Europe is not a better proposition than staying in the A-League Women, which I think is a bit of a misconception that exists at the moment," he said.

"The number of matches is certainly going to be a positive reason for Australian players to stay."

Townsend was optimistic the extended season would help develop more quality players to expand the Matildas' talent pool long-term.

He also confirmed plans for the league to have breaks for international windows.

The season is significantly longer than the likes of the AFLW, NRLW and WBBL seasons.

"The way in which we're gonna roll this out, we think is is going to set a benchmark for women's sport in this country," Townsend said.

In line with the current long-term collective bargaining agreement, signed ahead of last season, the league's minimum salary will rise more than 50% over two years.

"Thanks to the genuine partnership with the APL, the players have played a central role in helping to design a competition that delivers meaningful employment, a professional career path and a strong and sustainable league that will develop the next generation of Australian talent," PFA co-chief executive Kate Gill said in a statement.