Liberty A-League Premiership & finals race comes down to LAST ROUND: Every situation explained

We’ve entered the final round of the 2023-24 Liberty A-League regular season and there is still so much on the line.

There’s not just a Premier’s Plate up for grabs as the regular season concludes after 22 matches – there are still two Finals Series berths available.

If that wasn’t enough, a Golden Boot winner is set to be crowned too.

This is everything you need to know.

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Sydney FC and Melbourne City are the last two clubs standing in the race for the 2023-24 Premier’s Plate with Western United and Central Coast Mariners out of contention.

The Sky Blues could have clinched the Premiership on Wednesday night, however, they were stunned 1-0 by Michelle Heyman’s Canberra United at McKellar Park, where the rescheduled Round 17 fixture took place.

Sydney now turn their attention to Sunday’s Big Blue against rivals Melbourne Victory as they look to claim a fourth consecutive Liberty A-League Premiership, while Melbourne City meet Perth Glory.

No team in A-Leagues history, men’s or women’s, has ever won four straight Premierships.

Victory have twice denied Sydney FC silverware in recent seasons, defeating the Sky Blues in both the 2021 and 2022 Liberty A-League Grand Final despite coming into both title fights as the underdog.

To win the Premiership before City take on Perth, Sydney must defeat Victory in the Big Blue. A draw or defeat to Victory would leave the door open for City to clinch the Premiers Plate with a win over Glory.

If Sydney lose to Victory and City draw with Perth, the two sides will end the regular season locked on 39 points and the same amount of wins (11), but the Sky Blues would win the Premiership due to a superior goal difference.

Three-way race for Finals spots

Three does not fit into two, that is why Western Sydney Wanderers, Melbourne Victory and Newcastle Jets are going head-to-head for the final two finals positions alongside Sydney FC Melbourne City, Western United and Central Coast Mariners.

As it stands, the Wanderers and Victory sit fifth and sixth respectively on 33 points apiece, three point ahead of seventh-placed Newcastle.

But the fate of the trio is still up in the air ahead of the decisive weekend after the Jets stunned Victory in a wild comeback in Round 21.

Western Sydney travel to Wellington on Saturday, Victory are away to Big Blue rivals Sydney on Sunday FC and the Jets visit lowly Adelaide on Friday night.

The equation is simple for the Wanderers and Victory; don’t lose and the Finals Series awaits.

A draw would be enough for the Wanderers and Victory to cement their positions in the top six, while a win would put an exclamation point on their position.

Western Sydney Wanderers

However, Victory (nine) are in a more precarious spot than the Wanderers due to the fact they have won less matches than Western Sydney (10).

If both teams lost and the Jets beat Adelaide, Newcastle would leapfrog Victory on games won.

Should Victory suffer defeat at the hands of Sydney and Newcastle conquer the Reds, the latter would also pip Jeff Hopkins’ side into sixth.

Golden Boot

Aside from club matters, there is a significant individual honour on the line.

Who will be crowned the Liberty A-League’s leading goalscorer for the season?

A-Leagues legend Michelle Heyman is poised to clinch a third Golden Boot, with Canberra to face Brisbane Roar before their season comes to an end.

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The 2009 and 2012 Golden Boot winner is four goals ahead of Newcastle Jets’ Philippines star Sarina Bolden and fellow Matildas forward Sophie Harding of Western Sydney Wanderers.

Rachel Lowe (Melbourne Victory) is a goal further back, while Sydney FC and Matildas forward Cortnee Vine, reigning Golden Boot winner Hannah Keane (Western United) and Mariana Speckmaier (Wellington Phoenix) have 10 goals apiece.

Midweek, Heyman’s 16th goal of the 2023-24 campaign extended her lead in the Golden boot race and broke Sam Kerr’s record for the most goal involvements (goals and assists) recorded by any player in a single Liberty A-League season.

Heyman now has 16 goals and six assists to her name this season – a total of 22, eclipsing Kerr’s 21 (17 goals, four assists) recorded at Perth Glory in 2018-19.

Michelle Heyman

Heyman’s 2023-24 tally is her highest in Liberty A-League history, surpassing the 15 she scored in 2011-12, while Kerr owns the record with 17 gals in 2018-19. The latter set the record when there were just 12 games in the season.

Harding is in red-hot form heading into Western Sydney’s clash with Wellington, having scored three goals in two games, including a brace against Western United last time out.

As for Bolden, she has scored seven goals in her last 10 appearances for the finals-chasing Jets.

Finals Series format

This is a look at how the Finals will play out after the regular season is concluded.

The top two teams earn a week off, with the remaining four sides competing in the Elimination Finals – third against sixth and fourth versus fifth.

As it stands, it would mean Western United at home to Melbourne Victory and Western Sydney Wanderers away to Central Coast Mariners.

The winners of the Elimination Finals will progress to the two-legged Semi-Finals, where Sydney FC and Melbourne City await.