The Oceania Football Confederation’s (OFC) Emergency Committee today confirmed the top-five clubs in this season’s O-League will gain automatic entry into the 2007/08 edition of the continental championship.
They will be joined by the winner of an O-League qualifying competition involving this season’s sixth-placed club and one club each from the Cook Islands, Vanuatu and Papua New Guinea scheduled for the Cook Islands in May (2007).
With Auckland and Waitakere comfortably ahead of fellow group A participants AS Mont Dore (New Caledonia) in the current race for April’s home and away final, it appears certain NZ Soccer will retain two clubs for the 2008 O-League.
NZ Soccer will grant the two spots to the winner of the NZFC round-robin and overall grand final winner. If one club wins both titles, the second spot will revert to the round-robin runner-up as has previously implemented by the national body.
Waitakere United lead the NZFC and can wrap up the minor premiership (round-robin) title with victory in either one of their two remaining fixtures away to Hawke’s Bay United on Saturday and against visiting Otago on March 10.
Young Heart Manawatu hold second place by three points from defending champions Auckland City who have a game in hand over Manawatu.
Manawatu host Otago United on Sunday before completing their regular season campaign away to Canterbury on March 10.
Auckland host Canterbury on Saturday before back-to-back away games at Team Wellington on March 7 and 10 – the first of them a round 14 catch-up fixture following clashes with O-League fixtures.
O-LEAGUE QUALIFICATION CRITERIA
The OFC Emergency Committee set the qualification criteria for the O-League for the next four years following a meeting in Auckland.
Member Associations whose representative clubs finish 1st-5th in the O-League will be able to nominate their representative club for the 2007/08 O-League competition.
The OFC Emergency Committee has stated that all clubs involved with future O-League competitions must qualify from a recognised National League competition and not from a tournament or mini-tournament held over a period of a few weeks.
O-League regulations will be adjusted accordingly and all OFC Member Associations must register their National League competition from which their representative will be drawn.
O-LEAGUE FIXTURES RESCHEDULED
Waitakere United’s remaining two games in the O-League have been rescheduled because of a clash with the NZFC Grand Final.
Waitakere will play AS Mont Dore in New Caledonia on March 31st while Auckland City and Waitakere will meet at Kiwitea Street on April 4 in the final group stage game.
Fijian side Ba FC maintained their lead at the top of Group B with a 1-1 draw against the Tahiti champions AS Temanava on Saturday.
It’s a lot tighter in Group A where Auckland City’s 4-0 win over AS Mont Dore on Friday evening moved them above Waitakere United who have a game in hand.
Any sort of a win for Waitakere against AS Mont Dore in New Caledonia at the end of March would move them back above Auckland and set up a winner takes all deciding match at Kiwitea Street.
In fact if Waitakere win by two goals or more against AS Mont Dore, their superior goal difference would mean they would only need a draw in the final group game between the two New Zealand sides to qualify for the first O-League final in April.