It's the national competition that most Australians and Kiwis don't even know is happening.

If you're not a football fan, you'd be forgiven for not even knowing the A-League season had started.

But this isn't how things were meant to be. It's a World Cup year and there should be a wave of support for the A-League as the Socceroos prepare for Russia.

There should be at least two new teams joining the league next year as Football Federation Australia looks to capitalise on the inevitable boost the World Cup provides.

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But that is just a pipe dream. A pipe dream from 2016 in fact.

In December 2016 the Football Federation Australia unveiled plans to expand the A-League with at least two new teams.

It set off a stack of hopeful bids coming forward – from Tasmania, southern Sydney, Geelong, Brisbane and Wollongong to name a few.

The bidding process would be announced a few months later and at least two new teams would join the league in October 2018.

But like many plans from the FFA it didn't happen.

A new TV deal with Fox Sports well below the $80 million a year figure that CEO David Gallop had mentioned and all talk of expansion ceased.

An ugly fight over the make up of the FFA board that has forced FIFA to intervene has put the A-League into a sort of holding pattern.

And the competition has suffered.

If anything was proof of the problems the competition it is this graph.

The average crowd for this season is well below the average from the previous five – when Western Sydney Wanderers joined the league.

Even more concerning is this season's average of 10,900 is below the overall average since the A-League kicked off in 2005.

So what has gone wrong?

Western Sydney University's Keith Parry, who has extensively studied fandom, said the A-League now faces more competition from cricket's Big Bash and AFL Women for fans and media coverage.

"I would say that the increase in competitions, particularly over the summer period, will have an impact on A-League attendances – the sporting landscape in many of the major cities is saturated with codes competing against each other," he said.

"Football doesn't have direct competition, as in the same season, from cricket anywhere else that I can think of."

But there are other problems.

The A-League has had the same 10 teams for the past six seasons now. The FFA would no doubt be happy with a bit of stability after failures in Townsville, Gold Coast and Auckland.

But with each team playing each other three times a season, it becomes hard to get fans excited to see their team play the same teams again and again.

There is only so many times a Wanderers or Melbourne Victory fan wants to see their team play Wellington Phoenix.

The league is in desperate need of some new teams, but that now seems years away.

The other thing the league is missing is big names.

Tim Cahill's stint at Melbourne City produced some great goals, but ultimately ended with the Socceroos legend leaving mid-season this year.

All of the sudden a league that needs a bit of star power to draw in casual viewers had none.

Sydney FC's Miloš Ninković and Adrian Mierzejewski's are two of the best imports the league has had, but are not enough to draw in new fans.

Six years ago the league had Emile Heskey, Shinji Ono and Alessandro Del Piero - along with the entrance of the Wanderers - to give the league the boost it needed.

But with more money coming from the US, Middle East and China, Aussie clubs can no longer compete when it comes to signing big names.

"I think that the lack of high-profile players is significant. With Cahill leaving, the league is lacking the number of big names that we had a few years ago," Parry said.

"We know that fans are driven to attend games by 'star' players and these players also help to build fan culture and provide credibility for teams and leagues.

"Big signings would help to attract fans."

Poor scheduling has also hurt. It's hard to get fans motivated for a Sunday night game or a Thursday.

And the A-League moving to commercial TV has been a disaster.

The hope was moving the game from SBS2 to Channel 10's One could mean more people would see the league's marquee games. But ratings have been a disappointment and even dropped below SBS levels.

All in all, it's led to a league that is being deserted by diehard football fans and failing to draw any interest from casual fans.