As they assess their stocks for the next campaign, Hyundai A-League coaches are already talking to agents and players about next season. Clubs must keep strengthening and, hopefully, discover a gem who gives them that edge.
The majority of the league leaders' big guns are tied down until at least the end of the 2015-16 season. Daniel De Silva will leave to join AS Roma later this year, while Rostyn Griffiths is the only first-team regular out of contract (with Griffiths hinting this week of his wish to play overseas).
Mitch Nichols is on loan from Cerezo Osaka, while Dragan Paljic and Denis Kramar are on short-term deals.
The future is less certain for fringe players and youngsters Matthew Davies, Cameron Edwards and Riley Woodcock. Young reserve goalkeeper Jack Duncan has been linked with a move to Danish club Randers.
Like Victory, the coming off-season looms as a time for tweaking an already strong and settled roster, with 2015-16 looming as a busy period of negotiations for head coach Kenny Lowe and general manager of football Jacob Burns.
Kevin Muscat has a settled squad challenging for the title but we can expect several changes in the off-season.
Goalkeepers Nathan Coe and Lawrence Thomas, fullback Daniel Georgievski, central defender Matthieu Delpierre, veteran forward Archie Thompson, winger Fahid Ben Khalfallah and fringe youngsters Andrew Nabbout and Jesse Makarounas are all out of contract at the end of this season.
Coe is the current number one and has been more consistent this term than in 2013-14, when he briefly lost his place to Thomas. Though it remains to be seen if the 30-year-old or his younger deputy are valued highly enough to be offered new terms if a perceived upgrade has been identified and is available.
Georgievski, a new arrival this season, hasn't made himself a certain starter ahead of youngsters Jason Geria and Scott Galloway but could well have attracted interest from other A-League clubs or team outside Australia.
Archie Thompson expressed his desire to stay and remains a fan favourite, although at 36 his ability to contribute has diminished.
Muscat bristled at questions over Ben Khalfallah's future earlier this season. The French-born Tunisia international has impressed greatly in his first season in Australia, keeping Thompson and Connor Pain out of the starting XI. Those performances will give him a position of strength in any renewal negotiations and he will surely have other suitors.
Nabbout hasn't managed to top his heroics away to Sydney in 2012, while Makarounas hasn't been able to build on some encouraging performances in last year's AFC Champions League. Expect one or both to move on.
Central defender Adrian Leijer has left Victory for China.
The Reds have moved to tie down the future of three important players, with defender Michael Marrone, holding midfielder Isaias and playmaker Marcelo Carrusca committing to the club. Forward Sergio Cirio extended his deal in January.
A ball-playing centre-back will be needed to replace Newcastle Jets-bound Nigel Boogaard, while securing the future of talented utility Osama Malik, out of contract this season, must surely be a priority.
Further forward Awer Mabil, who trialled with Ajax in January, could be tempted into a move away, while Pablo Sanchez, who joined on a one-year deal ahead of the 2014-15 campaign, is yet to sign new terms.
Miguel Palanca, a mid-season replacement for Fabio Ferreira, is only contracted until the end of the current campaign.
With Bruce Djite signing a two-year extension, a back-up target-man with goals in him is a must if the Reds want to make the most of their impressive lead up play.
The most pressing area for the Phoenix is up front. Even if they manage to retain Nathan Burns (which is still open to question), the departures of Jeremy Brockie and Tyler Boyd leave the striking cupboard a little bare for next season.
Releasing Costa Rican Kenny Cunningham would free up an import spot, allowing the Phoenix to search far and wide for a quality front-man, as well as another home-grown forward to flesh out the roster.
Centre-back is also a priority. While the first-choice duo of skipper Andrew Durante and fellow veteran Ben Sigmund are both signed to the end of next season, another All White Michael Boxall is reportedly heading to South Africa, leaving the Phoenix short of central defensive cover.
A young, versatile Kiwi would be perfect. The midfield stocks look fine and goalkeepers Glen Moss and Lewis Italiano are also contracted for next season.
With more than half the squad currently off-contract for next season, Sky Blues coach Graham Arnold has room to move in the transfer market.
Defensive depth is one area Sydney must fix, especially centrally and on the left. Sasa Ognenovski is long odds to play again meaning a new centre-back is high on the wish-list while cover for exceptional teenager Alex Gersbach is paramount at left-back.
The addition of winger Andrew Hoole from the Jets is a huge plus and he will add some extra pace and flair in wide areas.
The decision over Marc Janko’s future is going to be crucial. If the Austrian skipper, who is in sensational form in a Sky Blues jersey, decides to head back to Europe it will leave a huge goal-scoring hole in Sydney’s attack.
However, retaining the lethal Shane Smeltz nullifies that problem with his form this season outstanding. But it’s been shown that two out-and-out goal-scorers is a must from a depth point of view.
Melbourne City FC
Compared to the evolution at Victory, it could be more like revolution north of the Yarra River at City.
John van't Schip's side have wide forward Damien Duff (currently out for the season through injury), centre-back Robbie Wielaert, midfielder Massimo Murdocca and centre-back Patrick Kisnorbo - all veterans - together with injury-plagued forward Mate Dugandzic set to come out of contract at the end of the season.
Argentine Jonatan Germano, who has missed the majority of this season through injury and is taking up a visa spot, will be unlikely to remain at the club.
As they approach the second full season following their takeover, owners The City Group could take an opportunity to make upgrades all over the pitch, although the domestic and international marquee places are taken by the impressive Robi Koren and Josh Kennedy.
There is also talk Duff’s injury replacement Harry Novillo could remain at the club for next season. The 23-year-old Frenchman certainly has the pedigree.
Brisbane Roar FC
While the likes of Henrique and Jean Carlos Solorzano have contributed goals this season, there’s no denying Roar haven’t adequately replaced striker Besart Berisha.
New signing Andrija Kaluderovic might well be that man but if not coach Frans Thijssen – or whoever takes the reins for next season – must find a striker in the Berisha mould if they are to launch a serious title bid again.
There’s no doubt they lack some firepower in wide areas and a pacy winger should also be high on their shopping list as well.
They do have the benefit of some exciting young talent coming through like Brandon Borrello, who scored this week in an historic ACL win in Japan, Devante Clut, Corey Brown and James Donachie who you would expect to play greater roles in the Hyundai A-League from next season.
Central Coast Mariners
It’s not too hard to realise the area Mariners boss Phil Moss must improve his squad for next season.
Goals have been an issue for the Mariners all season and a top-quality striker is priority number one. Lacking a cutting edge up front has been a familiar theme at post match pressas this season for Phil Moss.
The hard-working Matt Simon toils superbly but his body has struggled to cope with the rigours of the competition of late while Travis Major has yet to show he is up to Hyundai A-League level on a consistent basis.
If Central Coast is to get back towards the top of the competition, a prolific centre-forward is a must and it wouldn’t hurt if they could get a marquee-type player for that position to help excited the supporters again.
With skipper John Hutchinson retiring, a young and fit boss in the middle of the park and is also a key for Moss.
The Jets have turned over an inordinate amount of players in the past two seasons and on-field results have reflected this instability.
Currently the Jets have the highest goals conceded stat (40) - though that stat is skewed by the 7-0 calamity at Coopers.
And they have second lowest goals scored tally with 16 goals (though they’ve played two more than the Wanderers with 15 goals).
So in other words, a crucial off-season awaits the Jets as they aim to build a squad that can finally challenge for the finals with a cutting edge up-front, some creativity and defensive stability.
It’s a tall order. Number one priority, though, will be to tie down the signature of Lee Ki-je – the 23-year-old Korea has been outstanding during his short-term stint at the club.
The Hunter-based outfit will be desperate to shore-up their leaky defence. The trick is finding defensive players who operate well as a unit, not as individuals.
The Jets failed to adequately replace 2013/14 golden boot winner Adam Taggart this season and desperately need a consistent goal-scorer for the 2015/16 campaign.
Edson Montano has not set the league alight though he’d argue the overly defensive shape of the side hasn’t helped with the Ecuadorian often playing as the only out-and-out striker.
There are plenty of young players already, so the age group of any new signings would ideally be in the mid-20s range to get the balance right across the squad with perhaps an older player to help guide the team.
And overall, Newcastle will want to find players who buy into Phil Stubbins’ vision and culture.Western Sydney Wanderers FC
Ideally the Wanderers make as few changes to their squad as possible after Tony Popovic tinkered with his squad like a mad scientist this season after turning the squad over in pre-season and mid-ACL.
But the likelihood is he’ll need to find solutions for central defence alongside Matthew Spiranovic as well as a creative playmaker.
When the red and black miss either Spiranovic and or Topor-Stanley they suffer greatly. They need another leader back there.
Their attacking stocks look reasonable with Bulut and Juric now competing for the central striker’s role. If Haliti is tempted by an offer from Asia, it could be the chance for GolGol Mehbratu to step up.
But they really do miss an Ono-like playmaker to add that moment of magic and orchestrate the attacking third. Saba didn’t work out and proved not to be a team player. They would’ve learnt their lesson and will look to sign players who fit into the club’s strong team ethic.