Wellington Phoenix have confirmed they'll enter an inaugural women's team into the W-League for the 2021/22 season.
The Phoenix have been selected as one of three new expansion teams for the Australian-based league, forming New Zealand's first-ever professional women's football team. The side will be supported with staff and resources from New Zealand Football.
Phoenix general manager David Dome says the team is the culmination of years of hard work and perseverance and will open up a new avenue for aspiring female Kiwi footballers.
"This also allows us to continue the expansion of our hugely successful academy programme by building out our female youth development programme - which has already begun the development of the next generation of W-League footballers," says Dome.
"Make no mistake, this is a huge win for football in New Zealand as it creates another pathway for women to become professionals football players, where they can both develop their skills and showcase their talents to the rest of the world, providing more opportunities for Kiwi women footballers to shine."
Recruitment for the team is underway and Dome is confident the club will be able to field a highly competitive squad for its debut campaign.
"We've all been busy in the background over the past few years, working towards this exact moment," says Dome. "Now that we’ve been given the green light, I’m confident that the club can finalise the squad relatively quickly in preparation for the season start.
"We're really looking forward to making history for women’s football in New Zealand."
In the same vein as their male counterparts, the team will be based in Australia for their first season, with the hope they'll be able to play games in New Zealand in the second half of their campaign.
The addition of a Kiwi women's team is timely, with the FIFA Womens' World Cup in Australia and New Zealand next year fast approaching.
NZ Football chief executive Andrew Pragnell calls the team's addition a "huge moment" for women's football in Aotearoa.
"This represents a moment of true collaboration to benefit the game on both sides of theTasman ahead of our co-hosting of the FIFA Women’s World Cup 2023," says Pragnell.
"While more details are still to be announced on the team in the coming weeks, this is amoment for celebration and I can’t wait to finally see the team take to the pitch come the start of this year’s W-League season."
Western United and Central Coast Mariners are expected to be added as the other two new expansion teams in 2022/23.
The W-League season begins November 23, running through until April 3.