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A-League set for heavy youth focus

Young Australian footballers are poised to take centre stage when the 2020-21 A-League season kicks off in later December.

The A-League has been hit by the departures of several foreign stars and some experienced Australians to Europe and India before the looming drop in the salary cap, while COVID-19 restrictions have also affected the ability of clubs to secure foreign talent.

Sydney FC coach Steve Corica said after pushing through a difficult 2019-20 season, clubs were ready to take on any challenges presented next season – and expected young players to feature heavily.

“You’re definitely going to see a lot of young players this year with the salary cap being a lot smaller than what it was,” Corica told AAP.

“It’s going to give opportunities for Australian players, not only just because of the salary cap but because of COVID – it’s difficult to get foreigners into the league as well at the moment.

“So I think you’re going to see a lot of young talented players.”

On Thursday, it was announced the A-League and W-League will both commence on December 27, with the men’s 23-week competition running until June while the women’s season will finish up in April.

It will also be the inaugural season of newcomers Macarthur FC, with the A-League to expand from 11 to 12 teams.

Sydney FC will be aiming to become the first A-League team to win three consecutive grand finals and have retained the majority of their squad – with star striker Adam Le Fondre the only major departure.

They are due to head to Qatar – along with Melbourne Victory and Perth Glory – in November to complete their remaining Asian Champions League group stage games, before the A-League season.

Sydney FC captain Alex Wilkinson said playing competitive games in Asia would prove advantageous ahead of the Sky Blues’ championship defence.

“One of the goals is to be the first team to win three in a row which would be unbelievable so that’s everyone’s focus at the moment,” Wilkinson told AAP.

“But we’ve got the Champions League before that all kicks off and in a way it’ll be good to get lots of meaningful games in before the A-League season starts.”

Meanwhile, the nine-team W-League will complete a 57-game campaign.

The W-League is arguably facing its most challenging season after the majority of Matildas players departed the competition to base themselves at Europe’s top clubs.

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