The new W-League season kicks-off in Australia this weekend with local aspirants joined by a host of big-name international players all auditioning for a berth at next year’s FIFA Women’s World Cup™ in Canada.

The abbreviated 14-week summer season runs until the end of December and is perfectly timed for NWSL-based players looking to continue playing during the North American off-season.

Little wonder that around a dozen Americans – many of them former USA youth internationals – are set to compete in the eight-team league.

Headlining the international roll-call are Germany goalkeeper Nadine Angerer, former Canada U-20 captain Shelina Zadorsky and one-time USA World Cup midfielder Lori Lindsey.

For the locals the season takes on added significance ahead of Canada 2015. Australia have been without a permanent national team coach since April, and with an appointment seemingly imminent, stakes are high for those players with World Cup aspirations.

While the quantity of players heading across the Pacific is significant, the opposite is also true. Australians outnumbered any other foreign contingent in the most recent NWSL season, aside from Canada and Mexico players placed at clubs as part of a local agreement.

Steph Catley is one such player having turned out for Portland Thorns as an attacking fullback. The Melbourne Victory captain believes the W-League playing standard has developed exponentially in recent seasons.

The possession-based football in the W-League I think is brilliant. The intensity at training is really high, and similar to the US.

Melbourne Victory and Australia fullback Steph Catley

“The W-League has some really classy players,” Catley told FIFA.com. “It is catching up to leagues around the world.

“I know of several Americans that wanted to come here, so the league has really grown, and there is so much interest from overseas.

“There is not that much different from the way Melbourne is run compared to Portland, but there are little things of course such as memberships.

“The possession-based football in the W-League I think is brilliant. The intensity at training is really high, and similar to the US (at Portland).”

Catley’s Victory side are the reigning champions but, having lost highly influential Wales captain Jess Fishlock, they face stiff opposition from several quarters.

Brisbane Roar and Sydney FC, who are once again filled with numerous international personnel, are both perennial challengers having won four of the six titles thus far.

Canberra United are also likely to threaten and they boast a stable line-up, with their attack led by the league’s all-time leading goalscorer Michelle Heyman.

Perth Glory are the team to watch with the arrival of Sam Kerr and 2011 Women’s World Cup Best Young Player Caitlin Foord taking their Matildas contingent to six.