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Big predictions for A-League at season launch

Football sees bright future in Australia as 2014-15 A-League launches

Big predictions for A-League at season launch

SYDNEY (AP) -- Football Federation Australia launched its 2014-15 A-League season Tuesday, predicting it will more than hold its own in the contest for audience share in Australia's packed sports market.

FFA chief executive David Gallop said the season which begins this weekend will be the best in the league's 10-year history, and is expected to top 2 million-barrier for fan attendance for the first time.

Gallop told simultaneous league launches in Sydney and Melbourne "it's our time", adding "in this competitive environment we're in, the other competitions have gone to sleep now."

But the A-League launches off the back of bumper seasons for rugby league and Australian Rules football. Sunday's National Rugby League grand final attracted a crowd of 84,000 fans, a record at the venue since it was reconfigured after the Sydney 2000 Olympics.

The final between South Sydney and the Bulldogs drew a combined national television audience of 3.95 million, out-rating the previous weekend's Australian Football League grand final between Hawthorn and the Sydney Swans which was watched by 3.513 million.

The AFL final at the Melbourne Cricket Ground was watched live by 99,454 fans and has attracted more than 100,000 supporters in recent seasons.

Soccer officials in Australia have long predicted the global game will outgrow its rugby league and rugby union rivals and the homegrown Aussie rules for popularity Down Under, and Gallop was bullish in his assessment of the coming season.

Though the A-League lacks established stars -- the 32-year-old Spaniard David Villa will play 10 games for Melbourne City as the competition's marquee attraction -- Gallop said football offered an unrivaled fan experience.

"This year we have some ambitious benchmarks we're aiming for," he said. "We're aiming to get 660,000 weekly viewers on (television). Two million web users. One million social media followers. We expect to go through the 100,000 membership mark."