Scrap A-League squad limit: Arnold
Central Coast coach Graham Arnold has called on the FFA to scrap its restrictions on the number of players A-League clubs can sign, saying it's hindering the sport's future in Australia.
FFA boss David Gallop used Tuesday's season launch to boldly claim soccer is on a firm path to becoming the biggest and most popular sport in the country.
But Arnold said that, while football has vast playing numbers among children and teenagers, too many talented youngsters are missing the opportunity to make the giant leap from the state leagues to the top tier and a possible fulltime career.
Under the FFA's current limit clubs can sign up to 23 players but three must be under the age of 20, while a further three youth team players can be signed on the base salary but outside the 23 and salary cap.
"I'd like to see a bit of a change from the FFA so they get rid of their 23 players (restriction)," Arnold told AAP.
"And if we want to spend our salary cap on 30 players and have 10 kids of minimum wage it's also good for the sport, because we've only got nine teams here in Australia.
"You're getting 17, 18, 19-year-olds who are that good but you can't fit them all in, and that's a problem.
"There's so much talent in Australia, and there's so many talented youngsters that you've really got to give them the chance.
"If you don't give them the chance, the different levels between A-League and state league is so big that they can miss the boat."
Such a move would work for the set-up at the Gosford-based club, who this season take over the reins of their academy from Central Coast Football (CCF), meaning Arnold can keep a closer eye on the development of younger players.
Since taking up his position in 2010, the former Socceroos coach has been a strong advocate of transitioning teenage home-grown talent into his senior squad and beyond to international opportunities.
Despite talks with overseas clubs he extended his contract in September until the end of the 2015/16 season, primarily to continue that work.
He recently signed 15-year-old Anthony Khalik - the youngest player ever to be on the books of an A-League squad - on a three-year deal from the Australian Institute of Sport.
Khalik will join 16-year-old AIS teammate Liam Rose in the Mariners squad at the completion of their program in March.
"If there wasn't a restriction on the number of players, I'd probably have them in now," Arnold said.
"But we also have to respect the Institute of Sport's program, and if we tear that apart then the purpose of the government putting money in to help produce those players could fall apart."
Left winger Tom Slater, the 16-year-old son of former Socceroo Robbie Slater, was also snapped up in July, and made his mark by scoring the only goal in the Mariners' second pre-season friendly.