Why a second-tier league would benefit Socceroos
FOOTBALL: In the last round of the 2000-01 National Soccer League season, 199 Australians featured, with 161 of those starting.
That was the last Australian domestic season that ended with a 16-team national competition, comprising of 34 rounds and finals.
In last weekend's 27th and final round of the A-League, 69 Australians started while another 23 came off the bench. That's 92 less starters and 107 less that played. Six less clubs and more internationals (46 visa players appeared last weekend) will do that.
Even in the last round of the last NSL season (2003-04), 119 Aussies started and another 33 came off the bench. Only 16 visa players appeared that weekend.
Ange Postecoglou wishes he had such a deep local player pool to scout, but with A-League expansion on the backburner that won't change before the World Cup in Russia in 2018.
This is why a national second division must be prioritised and debated.
A second division would result in between 100 and 150 more Australians being given a local professional opportunity each week.
Depending on how many clubs would form part of the second division, it would create 10-16 new coaching jobs, opening doors for fresh emerging talents like Mark Rudan and Harry Kewell or wily state league campaigners like Damian Mori, John Anastasiadis and Brian Brown.
The $5.5 million annual cost for running a club appears prohibitive for most, but for those with professional ambitions it's realistic and less than half of Melbourne Victory's spend.
Former NSL clubs South Melbourne, Wollongong Wolves and Brisbane Strikers have made the most noise thus far, but more can and should throw their hat in the ring.
A second division is not just viable but inevitable.