The National Youth League is an Australian national association football youth developmental and reserve league, run by Football Federation Australia. The National Youth League was established as a successor to the competition of the same name and commenced in August 2008. The league runs in conjunction with the A-League as a developmental/reserve league. It is currently contested by ten teams, nine of which compete in the A-League, the other, the Australian Institute of Sport. Seasons currently run from October to March.
The league is currently sponsored by Foxtel and thus officially known as the Foxtel National Youth League.
Each club contracts a squad of 16 Youth Development Players. Players must be between the ages of 16 and 21 as of 1 January in the year the season commences. Four over-age players (including goalkeeper) are also allowed to be selected (except when playing the AIS where it is restricted to two), usually these coming from the senior team. Each youth player must receive a minimum of 30 minutes game time. Players under 21 signed for the first team filling foreign player spots are classed as over-age players. These players can be any Australian player within the age group. A-League clubs must draw replacement players for their senior teams from the Youth League squad, except under certain circumstances. Such would include severe injuries to over-age players where an injury replacement player is able to be signed.
Up until and including the 2014–15 season the league had an 18 round format with every team playing all other teams Home and Away. In previous seasons an end-of-season finals series playoff tournament was played between the highest-placed teams from the regular season, culminating in the Grand Final game. The aim of a league is to provide a pathway for young players and state league players to play regular high-level football, and allow reserve players from senior A-League teams to remain match fit.
The 2015–16 NYL season will take on a new format. From 2016, all A-League clubs will have youth teams entered into their local conferences of the National Premier Leagues. By having NPL teams, there is less reliance on the NYL to provide an avenue for youth players to their respective clubs. There was also pressure from A-League clubs to reduce travel budgets. As such the 2015–16 season will have a shortened format reducing from 18 games per team to 8 and a Grand Final. The existing ten NYL teams will be divided into two conferences of five teams. Conference A will consist of teams from WA, SA, Victoria and Queensland, while teams from ACT and NSW will be placed in Conference B. All teams will play all other teams in their group both home and away. After the home and away series a Grand Final will be played between the top teams from each conference.