Football: Auckland City FC find way to survive New Zealand club football restructure

New Zealand's most successful domestic men's football club has found a way to survive a major overhaul to the national league.

Sunday's grand final between defending champions Auckland City and Team Wellington marks the end of an era.

After 17 years, the current Premiership competition is coming to an end, with New Zealand Football overhauling the summer franchise-based format with the National League Championship.

It means those clubs will cease to exist, but the navy blues have been handed a lifeline.

"Now's a great time to prioritise talent development in the New Zealand football system," NZF chief executive Andrew Pragnell says.

"So, the new national league structure for both men and women will do that."

The new system, aligned with winter, initially meant Auckland City would have been more. But that's no longer the case.

"We had the opportunity to talk with our sister club, Central United, and get a memorandum of understanding together with them," says Auckland City chairman Ivan Vuksich.

"Auckland City will now take Central United's place.

City's brand has become too valuable to lose.

"The first word that comes to mind is success," Auckland City coach Jose Figuera says.

"Success on the pitch in terms of winning titles, and leagues and trophies - domestically and internationally."

The club is ready to embark on a new chapter, while also reflecting on what's come and gone.

"It's great to be part of the club," says club legend Ivan Vicelich. "Going forward as well, in the new competition. The club is striving to continue that success."

"One of the reasons I first came back to play in New Zealand was to enjoy it and have fun," says captain Cameron Howieson.

"I think we've done that."

Skepticism remains around the rejigged competition, with suggestions it may struggle.

"It is the end of an era," Vuksich adds. Hopefully the new league will get somewhere near that."

But for now, the focus is on going out with a bang - gunning for their ninth title on Sunday.