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New Zealand Soccer

New Zealand Soccer

National team shirt
Men's national team shirt

Soccer in New Zealand is a distant third in popularity and prestige behind rugby and cricket. The game is, however, the most popular participation sport in the country.

More kids play soccer than rugby but on a world level, New Zealand are just much, much better with the oval ball than the round one.

National Teams

New Zealand national men's team (the 'All Whites') are presently ranked 122th in the FIFA World Rankings. (April 2021). In the latest World Rugby Rankings, the All Blacks lie second behind World Cup holders, South Africa.

The high point for the New Zealand men's team was qualifying for the 2010 World Cup in South Africa and performing reasonably well. This was only the second time that New Zealand had reached the finals, having qualified for the first time in 1982, when the finals were held in Spain. In South Africa, the All Whites remained undefeated drawing with Paraguay, Slovenia, and mighty Italy.

New Zealand's women's team (the 'Football Ferns') are higher ranked than the men's team and have qualified for more World Cups. New Zealand will co-host with Australia the 2023 FIFA Women's World Cup.

Yellow Fever
Yellow Fever

Famous New Zealand Soccer Players

Several male Kiwis have played at higher levels of the game in Europe. The most successful so far has been striker Wynton Rufer who starred for Werder Bremen in the Bundesliga. He won the league with the club and also scored the winning goal in the 1992 Cup Winners' Cup Final.

Another striker, Shane Smelz played at the 2010 World Cup and had spells in Australia, England, and Turkey. At the age of 40, he is still going strong in the lower leagues in Australia.

Defender Ryan Nelsen also had a successful career in England representing Blackburn Rovers, Tottenham Hotspur and QPR.

Presently Auckland-born Chris Wood plays for Premier League side Newcastle are his transfer from Burnley in the Premier League in England.

The majority of the top women players ply their trade in the best leagues in the USA, Australia, and Europe.

New Zealand Soccer
Westpac Stadium

Domestic Game

New Zealand has one representative in Australia's A-League. This is Wellington Phoenix who rose from the ashes of the Auckland-based New Zealand Knights, who folded in 2007. Phoenix then took their place in the competition. Wellington Phoenix play their home games at Sky Stadium (formerly Westpac Stadium). It's a fun experience and you can read about attending a game here and the team's supporters known as the "Yellow Fever."

The main domestic soccer competition in New Zealand is now the New Zealand National League founded in 2021. This replaced the New Zealand Football Championship (see below for details of that competition). The new league consists of ten teams, with teams qualifying from their regional leagues. Four teams qualify from the Northern League, three from the Central League, two qualify from the newly formed Southern League plus the Wellington Phoenix Reserves who automatically receive a place each season. The season will run from October to December and consists of a single round-robin competition. The top two teams will then progress to the Grand Final. For more information visit

New Zealand Football Championship (Māori: Te Whakataetae Whutupaoro a Aotearoa). 8 franchise teams competed in the competition (formerly the ISPS Handa Men's Premiership then the National League Championship) which ran from October to April. Auckland City was the strongest team and has qualified to play several times as Oceania's representative in the Club World Cup as did Waitakere United in 2007 and 2008.

The eight teams were Auckland City, Canterbury United, Eastern Suburbs, Hamilton Wanderers, Hawke's Bay United, Waitakere United (now dissolved), Wellington Phoenix Reserves, and Team Wellington.

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