Melbourne Victory and Heart will clash to open the new season, while a new finals system and the debut of the A-League's new western Sydney side all feature in the new draw
The unveiling of the 2012-13 A-League season draw has revealed a fully revamped finals series, while the Melbourne derby will open the season on October 5 and the competition's new western Sydney side will face the Central Coast Mariners in their inaugural match.
Football Federation Australia has opted to alter the structure of the finals series, shortening the playoff part of the campaign by a week.
It will now become a straight knock-out cup style format, with the first and second-placed teams given a week off while third plays sixth and fourth plays fifth.
The top team will then host the lowest ranked winner from Week 1, while team two will face the highest-ranked winner from the elimination finals.
The highest-ranked winner of the semi-finals will go on to host the A-League grand final.
"It was clear from the feedback from fans, media, broadcasters and clubs that the league retains a top-six system and that it also creates a more fiercely contested finals series, with the top six teams all fighting for a place in the Hyundai A-League grand final," FFA chief executive officer Ben Buckley said on Tuesday.
"To facilitate this and to rejuvenate the format, FFA wanted to reduce the repetitive nature of the previous system where in the past teams have played each other three times in the four week format.
"To intensify the finals series we have chosen to remove the preliminary final and replace it with two semi-final matches that will provide the platform for a highly energised and uncompromising cup style finals format."
The Melbourne derby will open the season, while grand final combatants Perth Glory and Brisbane Roar also face off at Patersons Stadium in the first week of the new season.
Although there have only been two seasons' worth of matches between Heart and Victory, the Melbourne derby has become one of the marquee regular season matches and the two halves of the Victorian capital will clash at Etihad Stadium to open the new season on a Friday.
The new Western Sydney team, yet to be officially named or to have secured a permanent home ground, will host Central Coast Mariners in their first game on Saturday, while Sydney FC kick off their campaign away to Wellington Phoenix.
Newcastle and Adelaide play Sunday, ahead of the much-anticipated re-match between the Glory and Roar in Perth.
The inaugural Sydney derby will take place in Week 3, on October 20, with the new club to host the Sky Blues. They also play on December 15 and on March 23, in the penultimate round.
Other notable points of the draw see 'Super Wednesday', where five games were played concurrently on the one day, scrapped and replaced by a more congested Christmas-New Year stage, where all ten teams will play twice over a six-day period between Boxing Day and New Year's Day. There will be three games back-to-back on New Year's Day.
In the other two grand final re-matches, Glory return to Suncorp Stadium - the place of their decider final heartbreak - to face the Roar on December 21, while the two teams meet again on Australia Day in Perth.
The remaining two Melbourne derbies take place on December 22 and February 2.
Matches will be played in Dunedin, Launceston and Campbelltown as part of the league's community fixturing, while Newcastle will host the first-ever Good Friday game, against Western Sydney, in the final round.
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