Hyundai A-League - bigger and better than ever!

The wait is over and football is back with the Hyundai A-League season set to start on Thursday.

The wait is over and football is back with the Hyundai A-League season set to start on Thursday.

"The Hyundai A-League is bigger and better than ever," according to Football Federation Australia (FFA) CEO, Ben Buckley.

“This season also sees us a reach a very important milestone with the first expansion of the competition.”

Gold Coast United and North Queensland Fury join the Hyundai A-League to take it to a ten team competition in only its fifth year.

“The inclusion of Gold Coast United and North Queensland Fury gives football a very large footprint in Queensland, and should also provide some fantastic local derbies and contribute to more fascinating Hyundai A-League rivalries,” Buckley said.

“I want to thank Clive Palmer (Gold Coast United) and Don Matheson (North Queensland Fury) for being instrumental in helping us take this first step into an expanded Hyundai A-League.”

Buckley also welcomed the 11th licensee who will join the Hyundai A-League in 2010-11, currently known as ‘Melbourne Heart- and backed by Peter Sidwell.

He remained upbeat about the potential 12th license and revealed that FFA is in discussions with four consortia with interests in either western Sydney or Canberra.

Buckley said that because of the global reach of the sport, there was no such thing as an off season in football.

“In addition to the Qantas Socceroos qualifying for the 2010 FIFA World Cup in South Africa, we-ve also been working to build respect and credibility for the Hyundai A-League and the sport even further,” Buckley said.

Significant Hyundai A-League activity in the six months since February include:

* refinement of disciplinary procedures for the Hyundai A-League including a capacity to retrospectively deal with ‘simulation-;

* greater flexibility in the Youth (U23) Marquee Player;

* a revamped pre-season giving clubs more flexibility and an opportunity for revenue generation;

* introduction of the NAB Under 20 Player of the Year award; and

* new sponsorship support from Schweppes including the SOLO Goal of the Season.

“The Hyundai A-League is now an established part of the Australian sporting landscape and is going from strength to strength.

“It is the local version of the global game and I would encourage all football fans to be part of something bigger by joining their local team,” Buckley said.

The Hyundai A-League kicks off with:

* 2009 Grand Final winners, Melbourne Victory, meeting Central Coast Mariners at Etihad Stadium on Thursday;

* last year-s runners-up, Adelaide United, meeting a revamped Perth Glory which includes three Qantas Socceroos (Jacob Burns, Chris Coyne and Mile Sterjovski) at Hindmarsh Stadium on Friday;

* the first Hyundai A-League match to be played at Townsville-s Dairy Farmers Stadium, when North Queensland Fury meet Sydney FC on Saturday;

* a local derby between Brisbane Roar and Gold Coast United at Suncorp Stadium, also on Saturday; and

* Newcastle Jets v Wellington Phoenix at EnergyAustralia Stadium on Sunday.

Buckley said there will be six more rounds of football in the regular season, with 142 games in total including a Top 6 Finals Series.

The home and away season ends on 14 February, culminating in the Hyundai A-League Grand Final on Saturday 20 March 2010.