Wollongong Wolves chief executive officer Strebre Delovski believes his club's inclusion in the new National Second Tier competition will be "momentous" for football in the Illawarra.
Football Australia on Monday revealed that the Wollongong NPL NSW outfit will be among at least eight clubs to compete in the inaugural NST in 2025.
The Wolves will be joined by fellow NSW clubs Sydney Olympic, Marconi Stallions, APIA Leichhardt and Sydney United 58, along with Victorian outfits Preston Lions, South Melbourne and Avondale.
FA plans to unveil two to four more teams for the league ahead of the 2025 competition - which will serve as one rung below the A-League. The Wolves will continue to compete in the NPL NSW in 2024 before joining the NST the following year.
"The Illawarra football family has been crying out for national representation for some time and the club has worked extremely hard to deliver on this desire," Delovski said on Monday.
"The step up to a national competition requires significant investment and support however we believe our passionate football community will be there when we need it most. The club is now looking forward to working with Football Australia and the other foundation clubs to help shape the competition.
"The time has come for the Wolves to return to its former glory."
The Wolves have long expressed a desire to return to Australia's top domestic competition, with the club being two-time champions in the now-defunct National Soccer League.
The plans for a National Second Tier has been in the works since 2017, with the Wolves revealing in March 2023 that they were among more than 30 clubs from across Australia that had lodged an expression of interest for the first NST competition.
In May, that list was been cut to 26 clubs for the next phase of planning.
"I am delighted to announce that we have been selected as one of the foundation clubs in the National Second Tier," Wolves chairman Tory Lavalle said.
"This announcement is significant for the Illawarra and will provide a pathway for players in the region. The club was always confident it could meet all the relevant criteria to participate at this level."
The inaugural NST will feature two full home and away rounds between all sides plus a finals series.
Football Australia CEO James Johnson said the new competition would be a "cornerstone in our mission to fortify the foundations of our sport".
"The establishment of the National Second Tier is a transformative step for Australian football... it symbolises our commitment to reconnecting the football pyramid and enhancing the competitiveness of our national game," Johnson said.
"The National Second Tier will be instrumental in nurturing talent, engaging communities and elevating the overall quality of football across the country."
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