Just last week, the Australian Professional League (APL) announced that three expansion teams were set to join the W-League, with the plans to increase teams in the league from 9 to 12. The decision was made in order to further interest in women's football in Australia and New Zealand, particularly given the fact the FIFA Women's World Cup will be hosted by both nations in 2023.
The first team which they have announced is Wellington Phoenix Women. They will be the first ever professional women's team from New Zealand and will be set to make their inaugural season this 2021/2022 season. Central Coast and Western United are two other teams which have been announced as the expansion sides, but there has been no confirmation as to when they will take part in the league.
With the side being announced for this upcoming season, it allows Phoenix to have at least two seasons in W-League before New Zealand and Australia host the 2023 women's World Cup.
There has been a lot of planning, hard work and discussions being had behind the scenes for the last few years to try and make this ambition come to fruition. But one of the major setbacks was around the cost of travel between the two countries.
The decision is a momentous occasion for New Zealand and women's football, hopefully inspiring a new generation of young Kiwi footballers and give them the belief of making it to an elite level.
The side will be an affiliate of the Wellington Phoenix Men's Team who play in the A-League and will share the Sky Stadium for match days in usual circumstances. With there being plans for the future to host double-headers with both teams in Wellington and Auckland. But given the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, travel restrictions and quarantine procedures differing between Australia and New Zealand, it is unclear where the team will base themselves for the time being.
General Manager of the side, David Dome, says that the club will be busy over the next few weeks as they work hard to build a strong and competitive squad for the upcoming season. Being accepted into the W-League, they are required to sign seven Australian players into the team, but will be able to sign up to 11 New Zealand players in their inaugural season. That may increase in future seasons.
The 2021/2022 W-League season is set to commence on 13th November and run until 3rd April.