Women’s National League to expand to 10 teams for 2023 season

The women’s National League will expand from eight to 10 teams and will include the Wellington Phoenix’s reserve side.

NZ Football have confirmed the expansion of the National League Championship stage for the 2023 season and that it will mirror the men’s National League.

The 10-team league will switch to a single round-robin competition followed by a grand final, the same structure as the men’s National League Championship.

Main photo: Eastern Suburbs with their trophy after winning last year’s National League title. Photo: Shane Wenzlick / Phototek.

As piloted in 2022, the 2023 women’s competition will operate a hybrid model with both club and federation-run sides.

The 2023 competition will feature:

  • Four club sides qualifying from the Lotto Northern Region Football League.
  • Three federation sides (one Central Football, two Capital Football) to be delivered in partnership with club sides from the regions.
  • Two federation sides representing the South Island, Canterbury United Pride and Southern United, to be delivered by Mainland Football and Southern Football.
  • Wellington Phoenix reserves will be granted an automatic qualification spot, as in the men’s competition, to support the youth development of the A-League Women side.

Plan to move league to a fully club-based model

NZ Football’s announcement says:

“The competition will move to a fully club-based model, the same as the three regional leagues of the men’s competition, when club capability allows.

“This is provisionally targeted for 2024/2025 in the Central and Capital federations and 2026 for the Mainland and Southern federations.

“To further support the future move to a fully club-based competition, 2023 will also see the Mainland and Southern federations jointly deliver a South Island league.

“While it will not form part of the qualifying process for the National League Championship, it will act as a pilot for future incorporation into the league, as the Southern League does for the men’s competition.”

Phoenix: ‘The final piece of the puzzle’

Wellington Phoenix director of football Shaun Gill has welcomed the announcement.

“Having entry into the women’s National League is a critical part of the pathway for the development of young female footballers in New Zealand.

“It’s also critical to ensuring there’s gender equality within the academy programme.”

There will be three women’s teams playing out of the Phoenix academy in 2023, with under-15, under-17 and under-20 sides all entered in Capital Football competitions.

“A big thank you must go to Capital Football and all of the clubs within the federation for their support, to ensure we can have three women’s teams play in local competitions this winter.

“Having the under-20s play in the National League at the end of the year is the final piece of the puzzle.”

‘Participants want club-based model as soon as possible’

Daniel Farrow, General Manager of Football at New Zealand Football, sees this as a big step on the way to having a fully club-based women’s league:

“The feedback we had from the 2022 women’s National League Championship was that participants want to move to a club-based competition as soon as possible.

“This change is part of New Zealand Football’s ‘Bridging the Gap’ project which will see the competition transition to a club-based model, the same as the men’s league, over time whilst still having the support of federation sides.

“It is now the job of New Zealand Football and the federations to work with clubs across the country to ensure that they have sufficient capability and youth development, through tools like our club licensing programme, to deliver a fully club-based women’s competition as soon as competitively possible.”

The eight from last season

Eastern Suburbs, Western Springs, Northern Rovers, Auckland United, Central Football, Capital Football, Canterbury United Pride, Southern United.

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