Just three teenagers started for their respective clubs in Round 6 of the Hyundai A-League – damning evidence as to why we must expand sooner rather than later.

One of those three was 18-year-old Kiwi goalkeeper Keegan Smith whose inclusion in the Phoenix XI doesn’t do a whole lot for Australian football.

The other two were Brisbane Roar duo Joe Caletti and Nicholas D’Agostino – the latter a late inclusion following an injury to Fahid Ben Khalfallah in the warm up.

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Coming up against the Roar was 17-year-old Melbourne Victory winger Christian Theoharous who got his chance off the bench as a result of several Victory attackers missing the match through international duty and suspension.

Theoharous earned many plaudits for his livewire performance down the left flank that included a big part in Victory’s goal in the 1-1 draw.

However, had it not been for absence of James Troisi, Kosta Barbarouses and Mitch Austin it was unlikely Theoharous would’ve got the chance.

It seems that time and time again that youth are only getting a chance as a result of the absence of their more senior teammates, pushing the case for an expanded competition.

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A prime example of this is Brisbane Roar last season for whom Caletti, D’Agostino as well as Dane Ingham, Cameron Crestani and Kye Rowles all shone at various points when the club competed on two fronts in the Asian Champions League and A-League.

While the majority of these players have kicked on, Crestani who put in a man of the match performance in the Roar’s Champions League draw with Thai champions Muangthong United, now resides in the NPL after being unable to secure a deal in the A-League following his release from the Roar.

In a 16-team competition there would be opportunities for a player who showed such promise.

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Another example of this is Dimitri Petratos who’s starred this season for competition leading Newcastle Jets.

However, it wasn’t always so clear that Petratos would have an A-League career, having started at Sydney FC as a teenager Petratos was released in 2012.

From there no club was willing to take a punt on Petratos forcing him to move to the Malaysian Super League in order to pursue his career as a footballer.

Brisbane Roar eventually gave Petratos a trial ahead of the 2013/14 season and he impressed enough to earn a one year contract. In December of that season he bagged a hat-trick against Sydney FC and hasn’t looked back since.

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There are plenty of talented teenagers in the National Youth League who’s predecessors have shown given the chance and the time can flourish in the A-League.

Under the current model there simply aren’t enough spots for these players to get a chance – there are only 54 starting spots on offer in the competition for Australian players assuming all five foreign players start and the exclusion of Wellington.

Until the league is expanded there will continue to be a number of high potential players who will never get the chance to kick a ball at A-League level because of the structure of the competition.

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Currently studying a Bachelor of Digital Media and Communication at Southern Cross University, Thibault is a digital content editor at Gold Coast City and works as a football correspondent for APN Newspapers. Olympique Lyon and Socceroos fan, passionate about the growth of football in Australia.