Arnold’s Gold Coast pitch ahead of Aussie Cup qualifier

Murray Wenzel |

Socceroos coach Graham Arnold says an A-Leagues team on the Gold Coast would be big for the region.
Socceroos coach Graham Arnold says an A-Leagues team on the Gold Coast would be big for the region.

Socceroos coach Graham Arnold has floated the return of a Gold Coast A-Leagues outfit in addressing the domestic league’s health ahead of a historic World Cup qualifier in the city.

Clubs were informed on Wednesday next year’s distribution from head office would total just $530,000, down on close to $2m handed out last season and a far cry from the near $3.6m figure in 2018.

The A-League Men salary floor – the minimum amount clubs must spend – is $2.25m and the salary cap is $2.6m.

While wealthier sides such as Melbourne City will be able to plug the gaps, it leaves the smaller clubs facing a bleak financial outlook to cover the near $1.5m shortfall.

Clubs have indicated to AAP they are bracing for the prospect of makings cuts to already slim on-field and off-field departments.

The Socceroos will play a maiden fixture on the Gold Coast, opening the third round of their qualification campaign at Robina Stadium against Bahrain on September 5.

“The domestic league is so important for the Socceroos and Matildas,” Arnold said on Thursday.

“National teams are only as strong as their domestic leagues. 

“Up to the age of 16 we are as good as anywhere in the world.

“That age between 17-20, 21 – that’s when the kids need more help and more development.”

Arnold coached Central Coast when Gold Coast United featured in three top-league seasons between 2009-2011.

“I would have loved to have seen them stay in the A-League,” Arnold said.

“The crowds were fantastic and that was in 2011, 2012. Can you imagine the crowds today?

“We’ve got the facilities, everything that’s required. It just needs the backing of someone to get back into the A-League.”

Australia, unbeaten in six second-round qualifying games, must finish in the top two of a pool featuring Bahrain, China, Indonesia, Saudi Arabia and world No.17 Japan to earn automatic qualification for the 2026 showpiece.

“It’s a wonderful opportunity to inspire 15,000 registered kids that play football here in this region and expose those moments in life to those kids,” Arnold said of the Bahrain fixture.

“First time here and a World Cup qualifier; a very, very important game, a fantastic rectangle stadium.”

Arnold said the squad’s depth and belief gave him “goosebumps”.

“Japan are a strong nation, ranked 16 (sic) in the world for a reason and growing, but we’re only six, seven places behind them,” he said.

“It’s about going out with that mentality and believing in yourself and the boys know exactly what I want.

“My expectations and goals, I’ve already set to the players, is to top the group.

“That’s what we’re here for.”

The 2026 tournament will be co-hosted by Canada, the US and Mexico and expands from 32 teams to 48 for the first time.