Meet the teams
The club were one of the few success stories in the last season of the NSL - the first in the club's short history - regularly drawing capacity crowds to their boutique 16,000-capacity Hindmarsh Stadium, one of the venues for the 2000 Olympics. Coached by Socceroo great John Kosmina, Adelaide United play very much in the no-frills style of their mentor and are unlikely to give any opponent an easy ride. The team will look to captain Ross Aloisi - elder brother of Alaves' and Australian striker John - as well Chinese import Shengqing Qu for goals. In a twist of fate Kosmina, who scored the first ever goal in the NSL, will be involved at the dawn of the new competition as his side travels to Newcastle for the season opener.
Central Coast Mariners
The Mariners, who represent the rapidly-expanding coastal area some 100 kilometers north of Sydney, have an even shorter history than Adelaide United having played their first competitive match in May of this year. A team short on star players has been big on results so far winning the Pre-Season Cup and narrowly losing to Sydney FC in the Australian qualifying tournament to the Oceania club championship. Collectively, the coaching staff has an impressive portfolio with the well-regarded Lawrie McKinna leading a trio that also consists of former Glasgow Rangers legend Ian Ferguson and Australia's most capped player Alex Tobin.
Australia's second biggest city will also be represented by a brand new entity. Under affable coach Ernie Merrick the Victory have quietly gone about compiling a team that could be a genuine contender in the race to be crowned the first Hyundai A-League champions. Returning home-town boy Kevin Muscat, a veteran of 50 international matches for Australia and nine years in the United Kingdom, will lead from the front but it is striker Archie Thompson who could prove to be the most astute signing. Thompson, a proven goalscorer, is perhaps most famous for scoring a world record 13 goals in a FIFA World Cup qualifier for Australia against American Samoa in 2001. The final piece of the jigsaw may prove to be the squad's many young players, four of whom represented Australia at the recent FIFA World Youth Championship Netherlands 2005.
Often labelled the 'cradle of Australian football', Newcastle will, appropriately enough, have the honour of hosting the first match of the new competition. Newcastle has long been represented in the national competition and the city still holds the record for the highest domestic crowd during the regular season. Home town of former Liverpool midfielder Craig Johnston, the Merseyside theme is seemingly being continued in the shape of coach Richard Money who spent a couple of seasons with the Reds in the earlier Eighties. The squad is perhaps the most dynamic in the competition with ball players such as Ned Zelic, Socceroo striker Ante Milicic and midfielder Nick Carle among the most highly regarded of local talent. Add to the mix the likes of long-serving Watford midfielder Richard Johnson and youngster Stuart Musialik, who impressed for the Young Socceroos recently in The Netherlands, and the Jets rightly have high hopes for the future.
New Zealand Knights
Based in New Zealand's largest city, Auckland, the Knights will represent the hopes of all football supporters in the 'Land of the long white cloud'. The team will look to improve on the performance of their predecessors, the Football Kingz, who struggled to make an impact in the NSL. Faced with the added burden of lengthy travel for away matches - the trip to Perth is the longest in any domestic football competition in the world, the Knights will be looking to Kiwi coaching legend John Adshead for inspiration. The team has a heavy Australian and English presence but it is All Whites skipper Danny Hay who is likely to be a key figure for the Knights as they strive for success.
Winners of the last NSL Championship and the best supported club in Australia in nearly every season since their debut in 1996, Steve McMahon will have the onerous task of keeping the Glory at the top in what will be a far more competitive environment. The Englishman who played a key role in helping his country to the semi-final stage of the 1990 FIFA World Cup will look to enigmatic Socceroo midfielder Simon Colosimo and long-serving Glory stalwart and captain Jamie Harnwell to lead from the front. The recent arrival of journeyman striker Brian Deane will provide the team with a significant presence in the forward line. Englishman Deane will also have an outside chance of a unique double. Having scored the first goal in the English Premier League in 1992, the 37-year-old could repeat the feat with the Glory who compete in the league's second match.
Representing the Northern state of Queensland, the Roar will have the task of filling Brisbane's 52,000-capacity Suncorp Stadium. Backed by the wealthy Queensland Lions social club, the Roar have compiled a squad apparently lacking in star quality though results to date have proved the team to be anything but easy beats. Israeli-born coach Miron Bleiberg has long been renowned in the Queensland local competition and will now have a chance to test his skills at national level. A host of young talent will provide a strong base to allow Korean imports Tae-Yong Shin and Hyuk-Su Seo, the chance to shine.
The team from Australia's largest metropolis are undoubtedly the favourites for the title. The squad is comprised almost totally of players with international experience headed by the much-publicised arrival of Dwight Yorke. Under the tutelage of German legend Pierre Littbarski and his assistant Englishman Ian Crook, the club went 18 matches unbeaten before losing in the semi-finals of the Pre-Season Cup. The undefeated streak saw the team win firstly, the Australian, and then the Oceania qualifiers for the FIFA Club World Championship TOYOTA Cup Japan 2005, where they will meet Costa Rica's Deportivo Saprissa and, if successful, European Champions Liverpool. The 'glamour' club can even count Hollywood actor Anthony La Paglia among its shareholders.
Friday 26 August
Perth Glory FC V Central Coast Mariners FC
Newcastle Jets FC V Adelaide United FC
Sunday 28 August
Queensland Roar FC V New Zealand Knights FC
Sydney FC V Melbourne Victory FC