There could be a Wellington Phoenix team in the Australian W-League by the end of this year.
A women's team playing under the Phoenix brand has been mooted for years but is only now moving from possibility to probability.
Barriers still remain — mostly financial — but the joint transtasman bid for the 2023 Women's World Cup has added to the impetus behind female football in this part of the world.
"To get this across the line, a number of parties have to join forces to get it done, but there is some real momentum behind it now," Phoenix chief executive David Dome told the Herald on Sunday.
The ideal would be to have a Phoenix team playing in 2020-21.
"It's a stretch for us but that's what we're working towards. If we can continue the momentum, it's possible, but we need a lot of people to come to the party and get it to work."
The W-League was established in 2008, with seven teams affiliated to existing A-League clubs and a Canberra franchise. The Mariners were dissolved after a year but Western Sydney (2012) and Melbourne City (2015) were added to make the current nine-team league. The 12-round regular season runs from November to February, before top-four playoffs.
Dome is working closely with New Zealand Football, who see the team as critical to the development of the Football Ferns and age group national sides, as well as other stakeholders. But the biggest barrier is financial.
"It's a huge cost to the club," said Dome, who is seeking commercial partners. "It would need to be cost neutral so the owners [Welnix] don't have to write another cheque, to support another part of the business. We would need to get the commercial [equation] sorted but there is plenty of interest."
The financial implications are also why a Phoenix side would be based in Australia, as W-League teams can't afford to play on this side of the Tasman. Dome is hopeful of "one or two" games being staged in New Zealand but the home base would likely be New South Wales.
"The league wouldn't even consider a Phoenix team without it being based in Australia. Long-term, if the commercials around the W-League become more profitable, then a Wellington team based out of New Zealand could be contemplated."
The team would be dominated by Kiwis, a mix of young locals and established professionals returning from overseas. The outcome of the Women's World Cup bid, expected in late June, could be crucial.
"Touch wood, if that comes off, there would be some decent pressure to get the thing done sooner rather than later. Everyone has an eye on the World Cup. It we came in next season, it gives us three years of W-League [before the tournament]."