Wollongong Wolves are ready to be serious challengers for the revamped national Cup format, coach Luke Wilkshire has declared.
The National Premier League series knockout champions earned direct entry into the round of 32 for next year's tournament, a title the Wolves took out before last year's Covid-19 pandemic hit.
But under the new plan announced on Tuesday, the FFA Cup will be renamed, will feature an open draw for the first time, the semi-finals and final will be on a stand-alone weekend and the winner will gain preliminary round entry into the Asian Champions League.
It is also proposed for the Cup final to be played at a neutral venue. Wolves coach Luke Wilkshire told the Mercury a place in the final 32 was a reward for the players and offered a huge incentive next season.
"We want the opportunity to play against the best," Wilkshire said.
"We believe our best we can match the top clubs in Australia, so it's great to have another chance to prove we belong among those clubs."
The Wolves - who could be part of a national second division competition to be introduced in 2022 - met Sydney FC in the FFA Cup round of 32 in 2016, going down 3-nil.
Wilkshire flagged the potential for the Wolves to meet Wellington in a friendly game, to allow Phoenix players some much-needed game time for the A-League campaign.
"We're working on it," he said. "Obviously nothing can replicate the game environment and they'll no doubt have players looking for extra game-time.
"It will be a great experience for our squad to work with and play against A-League players as well."
The Phoenix will remain in Wollongong and play all A-League home games at WIN Stadium this season, unless the Australia and New Zealand border restrictions ease due to Covid-19.
On Monday, the Phoenix announced the signing of former English Premier League striker Tomer Hemed.
The Phoenix travel for the A-League opener against Brisbane Roar on December 29, before playing their first game at WIN Stadium against Sydney FC on January 2.