The A-League is the premier domestic football competition contested in the Australasian region. It is run by the Australian football governing body, the Football Federation Australia. It was founded in 2004 and is contested by 8 teams, 7 from Australia and 1 from New Zealand. The official sponsors for the A-League are the Hyuandai Motor Company Australia.
The A-League saw the light of the day after the National Soccer League in Australia was done away with and the inaugural season of the A-League was played in the 2005-2006 season. Adelaide United FC won the inaugural A-League Premiership while Sydney FC were the A-League champions.
The A-League shall expand from the 2009-2010 season and shall comprise of 10 teams instead of 8.
The A-League starts in the summer with the contest of the Pre-Season Cup. In this competition, the eight teams are placed in two groups with each team playing the others once every three rounds.
The regular A-League season then commences in late August and continues until January the following year. The competition consists of 21 home-and-away rounds, with each team playing each other team three times – twice at one team’s home stadium and once at the other’s. Teams which are allotted two home matches against an opponent in one season are allotted one home match against that opponent in the following season. Each match sees the winning team awarded three competition points, or in the case of a draw, the teams receive one point each.
At the end of the season, the teams are ranked firstly in terms of competition points accumulated, then goal difference, total goals scored, head-to-head records between tying teams and finally the number of cards each team has received. The club that finished top are adjudged as the A-League Premiers.
The top four-ranked teams at the end of the regular season are entered into a finals series based on the Page playoff system, where the first round of matches consists of two legs (with ties decided by the away goals rule). The top two ranked teams play the Major Semi-Final, with the winner progressing straight to and hosting the Grand Final.
On the same weekend, the third and fourt ranked sides play the Minor Semi-final, the winner of which face the loser of the Major Semi-final to progress to the Grand Final.
For all team participating in the A-League, they must have a squad comprising of a minimum of 20 players. Moreover, the A-League has the feature of maintaining a salary cap. Each club has a salary cap of AU$1.9 million for 19 players while the 20th player is not restricted by any salary cap.
Clubs may also only have a maximum of four internationals (from outside Australia and New Zealand) in their squad.