Australia's A-League set for hot season start in December

SYDNEY (AP) — Australia's A-League is set to kick off in late December, less than four months after the COVID-19 pandemic-interrupted 2019-20 competition finished with Sydney FC winning the title.

Football Federation Australia on Thursday said it will be the first time the A-League and the women’s W-League begin their seasons in the southern hemisphere summer and on the same date, Dec. 27.

The start of the soccer season will compete for attention with the traditional summer sports highlights in Australia, including the Boxing Day cricket test between Australia and India in Melbourne, the Sydney-to-Hobart yacht race and potentially some international tennis.

The new schedule also means that the majority of the elite soccer season will be played concurrently. The 161 men’s matches will be played over 23 weeks, with the grand final set for June, and the 57 women’s games will finish with a grand final in April.

That’s a big difference from the last men’s season which started on Oct. 11, 2019 and wasn't completed until Aug. 30 when Sydney FC beat Melbourne City 1-0 in the grand final. It was originally scheduled to end April 26, but FFA suspended the season from late March until July 17, forcing the late finish.

The W-League managed to complete its 2019-20 season just before the pandemic shut down most professional sports in Australia. Melbourne City beat Sydney FC in that W-League final on March 24.

Sydney’s Macarthur FC will begin their inaugural season to become the 12th team in the A-League. The W-League has nine teams and will begin its 13th season this year.

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