FOOTBALL: Socceroos greats have called for urgent A-League expansion to unlock the senior bottleneck and fast-track the next generation of stars.
Mark Bresciano and Josip Skoko declared expansion and a mooted second division will create openings, with game-time for youngsters currently limited.
Bresciano made his senior debut in January 1998 age 17, in a Carlton matchday squad that included fellow teens Vince Grella, Simon Colosimo, Danny Allsopp, 20-year-olds Andy Vargas and David Della Rocca plus Con Anthopoulos, 21.
He said it would have been far tougher for him to break through in the current climate.
"Back then there were five more Australian clubs, far less visa players and lots more opportunities for young locals like me,'' Bresciano said.
"To develop kids they need more games, the ones that succeed play more games early. It's not about spoon feeding the kids, but about giving them opportunities.
"Very few kids are getting games and many are going overseas in search of first-team chances, which isn't easy.
"Expansion is a must for so many reasons. It's repetitive and more clubs will open up opportunities for young players.
"A second division would be unbelievable for development. I got my European breakthrough in the Serie B (Italian second division) and played almost 100 games there before moving to Serie A and it was a perfect education.''
Australia's youth teams have qualified for just eight of 14 youth World Cups since 2006, with coach's lamenting their players' lack of club games, which was backed by a players' union study.
An analysis of 2500 Australians who've played since the National Soccer League's inception and found that the top 100 played double the games in their formative years (18-21) compared to the rest.
Skoko also backed the largest player study conducted, adding FFA should be targeting six extra A-League teams.
"We don't even have one under 20 player in each team, that's way too little if we want to build for the future,'' Skoko said.
"It's time for expansion, at least two more now, ASAP, and then within the next few years an extra two. You need to have 14 quicksmart, eventually 16 teams.
"While it may have issues with quality at the start, if you want to blood youngsters, you need 16 teams and eventually relegation-promotion.
"You'll have 10 finals towards the end of the year, relegation battles that will outweigh teams playing each other three times.
"It's important that structure gets put in, not tomorrow but we need to work towards it so that people from the leagues below can see the light perhaps coming up and the teams above fight for their lives and don't become complacent.
"You talk about 10 teams, one's in New Zealand. The quicker we get it to 12, the better.''