Melbourne Knights won a battle of former NSL champions over South Melbourne 2-0 to join the field in the FFA Cup.
Melbourne Knights have filled the last place in the inaugural FFA Cup, and a potential date with an A-League titan, after a 2-0 win over South Melbourne on Wednesday night.
The FFA Cup, a replica competition to the well-loved English FA Cup, has pitted local clubs in each state against each other to qualify.
But only now, after hundreds of qualifiers stretching the width and breadth of the country, will the tournament feel real.
Friday’s round of 32 draw in Sydney will enter the ten A-League clubs into the cup alongside 22 grassroots qualifiers.
From former National Soccer League (NSL) giants Adelaide City and Sydney Olympic to community clubs like Newcastle’s South Cardiff Gunners and Tasmania’s South Hobart, all have a path through to the newly minted Cup.
Conversely, the nature of cups is that many more miss out; and that was South Melbourne on Wednesday night.
Knights and South shared five NSL titles in the 1990s and both saw the Cup as a chance to regain the national limelight.
And with A-League competitors and pay TV’s bright lights waiting, there was plenty on the line.
A crowd of several hundred, including a small band of enthusiastic Knights fans, braved a bitterly cold Melbourne evening at Lakeside Oval to watch the match.
Starting the match as fierce favourites, South had the pedigree – no team won the NSL more often – and the possession, but could not find the goals.
Instead a first-half finish from Tomislav Uskok and a second-half breakaway run from Shayan Alinejad put the Knights name in the hat.
The draw ensures grassroots teams will host Brisbane Roar, Western Sydney Wanderers, Melbourne Victory and Central Coast in the competition, beginning next month.
It keeps the other six A-League clubs clear, and opens up a run for at least one grassroots side to make the semi-finals.
Like Costa Rica and Chile at the World Cup in Brazil, Melbourne Knights and the other grassroots teams can now start to dream of a football platform above their station.