New world club tournament shows United the money
Canberra United could make more money in two matches this week than the entire squad earned while becoming undefeated W-League champions last season. Photo: Gary Schafer
Canberra United's players have the chance to earn more money from two matches in Japan than they did in becoming undefeated champions in last year's W-League.
The side leaves for Tokyo on Monday evening to play in the International Women's Club Championship, with $US100,000 ($97,600) in prizemoney up for grabs in the four-team tournament, a sum which could have United bringing home more than the equivalent of the salaries paid to its entire playing roster if it wins both its matches.
United jumped at the opportunity to play the best club teams in the world in an almost all-expenses-paid trip but were surprised to learn last week that sponsorships received by the organising Japan Football Association meant the winner would take home $US60,000.
That's more than the $50,000 United spent on players when it won last season's W-League premiership.
Second place ($US30,000) would also net a tidy return, with third place ($US10,000) enough to reimburse the club's outlay for the trip.
How any winnings would be distributed is still to be decided.
But Canberra, which suffered its first defeat since the end of the 2010-11 season on Saturday, will have to get past two teams of outstanding pedigree to bring home the top prize.
Their first match up is against Japan's Nadeshiko League champions INAC Kobe Leonessa, a team sporting a star-studded line-up including seven players from the Japanese national side which won the World Cup and finished second at the Olympics.
If United was to win that, they would play off for first and second place against the winner of the other match, either Japan's Nadeshiko League Cup holders, NTV Beleza, or French team Olympique Lyonnais.
The Lyon side won the UEFA Women's Champions League in May and have won the French women's league for the past six seasons.
United striker Michelle Heyman has seen first-hand just how good the Lyon side is, having played against them during a stint in Denmark.
''They're the best team I've ever seen - they're amazing, so it's going to be a big step up for us and a big challenge but I think we could go all right,'' she said.
If United loses the first match, they will play off against the other losing team for third place, with no money on offer if they finish fourth.
They will be fielding a more experienced team than the one which lost 3-0 to Melbourne Victory on Saturday, with Heyman, Sally Shipard, Ellie Brush and Hayley Raso all returning to the fold.
Striker Ashleigh Sykes (injured) and goalkeeper Mackenzie Arnold (Matildas) are the only two Canberra players not travelling, with Aroon Clansey heading over as back-up goalkeeper for Trudy Burke.
The competition has a three-year sponsorship deal with the aim to develop it into the women's equivalent of the Club World Cup.
International Women's Club Championship: Game one: Canberra United v INAC Kobe Leonessa (Japan). Game two: NTV Beleza (Japan) v Olympique Lyonnais (France).
Both games at Urawa Komaba Stadium.