A revamped A-League Men’s finals series will feature a pair of semi-final ties played over two legs as part of an expanded four-week climax to the 2021/22 season.
The new format for the six-team finals series was unveiled on Friday, along with the full 26-round regular-season fixture.
The league had previously only released the schedule for the first six rounds, to be played from November 19 in a conference system in order for clubs work through existing state border closures and quarantine requirements.
Relaxed travel restrictions announced by most state governments, which will come into play before the end of the year, have helped the league settle on the rest of the schedule.
However, question marks remain over Western Australia and New Zealand, with ALM officials hopeful Perth Glory and Wellington Phoenix will be able to play home games as normal from early in the new year.
Both clubs have schedules front-loaded with away fixtures.
Glory will host Adelaide United in round one and are scheduled to play home games in Perth again from January 15 onwards.
Phoenix, who played most home games in Wollongong last season, will again base themselves in New South Wales early this season.
It is hoped they will be able to play their home fixtures in Wellington from January 29 onwards, but changes to the schedule may yet be required if WA and New Zealand travel restrictions are not eased.
“The draw anticipates border restrictions for WA and New Zealand being relaxed mid-January, but could be adjusted to facilitate earlier games in Perth and Wellington if restrictions are eased sooner,” the A-Leagues said in a statement.
Under the six-team finals format, third will host sixth and fourth will host fifth in one-off elimination finals.
The victors will take on the premiers and second-placed side over two legs in the semi-finals, with the winners of those ties advancing to the grand final on May 28.
“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.
The 2021/22 season will feature the inaugural Club Championship, awarded to the clubs with the most success across both the men’s and women’s leagues.
It follows the merging of the two competitions, as well as the men’s youth league, under a unified ‘A-Leagues’ banner.
“This season is a landmark moment for football in Australia,” O’Rourke said.
“We are proud to be able to deliver another full and action-packed season for fans to access in more ways than ever before.”
ALM matches will be broadcast on Network 10 and Paramount+ under a new broadcast arrangement this season.
Reigning champions Melbourne City have been given the honour of kicking off the regular season at home to Brisbane Roar on November 19, with Western Sydney and Sydney FC to do battle in a derby the following day.