Australia could have a national second-tier soccer competition by 2021-22 if recommendations from an FFA white paper are followed.
The paper, released on Thursday (AEST), outlines the possibilities and parameters of running a second-tier competition made up of eight clubs in Australia below the A-League.
Formed in conjunction with the Australian Association of Football Clubs (AAFC) and Professional Footballers Australia (PFA), the paper was born out of meetings by the National Second Division Working Group.
The paper's primary recommendation is that a second division is created in two years' time, comprising teams in markets not serviced by the A-League and operated by the FFA in the "short-to-medium term".
A seven-member steering committee, to be chaired by an FFA representative, will be established immediately to prepare an initial report for the FFA board by November.
The league could also offer incubation for future A-League expansion teams with a view to growing the top tier competition to 14-16 teams.
Promotion and relegation wouldn't be considered for the first five years of the competition to allow the clubs to "bed in".
Somewhere between five to 10 years after the second division is established, promotion and relegation from the regional NPL leagues to the second division would be considered under the paper's recommendations.
Promotion and relegation to the A-League would be considered at a later date although simply winning the second division wouldn't guarantee a team an A-League berth, with "non-football criteria" to also determine a club's eligibility.
The timing of the division is yet to be determined and could run in the winter or summer depending on discussions with stakeholders.
A financial model, including salary cap structure and licensing costs, would not be established until broadcasting deals and other commercial considerations had been finalised.
Clubs would also have to meet a requirement of average attendances of at least 3000 by year three or provide a case model on how to achieve those numbers if they hadn't attained that mark.
Several existing NPL teams and failed A-League expansion bids such as South Melbourne, Canberra and Wollongong are considered candidates for the new competition.