Wellington Phoenix's A-League season will be severely compromised with international duty set to rob them of star players for no less than four rounds.
New Zealand players Kosta Barbarouses, Michael McGlinchey, Louis Fenton, Glen Moss and Matthew Ridenton and Fiji star Roy Krishna are among the players who'll miss regular games this season with a crowded Oceania fixture list.
Melbourne City will be the first beneficiary of an understrength Phoenix, with Ernie Merrick's side set to miss at least five players in the Round 1 clash on October 8.
City is likely to be without Tim Cahill, who's almost certain to be on Socceroos duty, while the Phoenix internationals may struggle to be available for the round 2 trip to Perth (October 16) as they return from an away double-header against Mexico and USA (October 8 and 12).
New Zealand then plays Oceania World Cup qualifiers in November (New Caledonia) and March (Fiji), where more players will be called upon if the All-Whites' European stars aren't available.
A previous rule allowing Phoenix to sign replacements has been changed, leaving Merrick to rely on the back end of his wafer-thin squad.
It's understood that Phoenix submitted a request to FFA to have the City clash moved to the split round in March.
Merrick confirmed that he was set to lose players for the opening week of the season.
"We'll be compromised for the first two games of the season, which are so important for any club," Merrick said.
"We've put together a good squad but this works against us in trying to produce our best results.
"It will also cost the Phoenix fans the chance to see Tim Cahill in round one."
Phoenix have recruited strongly after a turbulent year where the FFA questioned their A-League future before granting the New Zealand side a 10-year license extension.
Barbarouses and Gui Finkler were signed from Victory while highly-rated Italian defender Marco Rossi has also joined.