SYDNEY : Australia's A-League has introduced two-legged semi-finals for the championship playoffs for the 2021-22 season with the aim of giving more of an advantage to the teams that finish first and second in the league after the regular season.
In line with Australia's other football codes, the A-League championship title is decided by a final after a sometimes convoluted playoff series featuring the top six team in the regular season standings.
The top two have always enjoyed some advantage over the other four teams in the playoffs, but A-League boss Greg O’Rourke said the two-legged semi-finals will further incentivise a high finish.
"The new format rewards the sides that finish first and second by eliminating the one-off semi-finals, and it rewards the fans who we know love finals football," O'Rourke said in a news release.
The A-League's fixture list for the 2021-22 season was also announced on Friday with champions Melbourne City hosting Brisbane Roar in the opening match on Nov. 19.
The four-week playoffs will commence in early May with the "Grand Final" scheduled for May 28.
After the last two seasons were heavily disrupted by the COVID-19 pandemic, hopes are high that borders coming down between states and crowds returning to sporting events will allow a more settled campaign.
In pursuit of that, the start of the season was pushed back from Oct. 30 but even still, the first six rounds will be played in two conferences with six teams staying in New South Wales and six competing around Victoria, South Australia and Queensland.
"This season is a landmark moment for football in Australia," O'Rourke added.
"After the excitement of last season generated by a new wave of Australian talent, we think the new campaign promises to deliver even more captivating drama for supporters and viewers."
(Reporting by Nick Mulvenney, editing by Peter Rutherford)