Conflict between club and country appears inevitable unless the Wellington Phoenix are successful in forcing a change to the A-League's draw.
The Phoenix yesterday sent a formal letter to Football Federation Australia, arguing that the league's integrity would be compromised by the club having to play fixtures during Fifa international windows in October and March.
But the noises from FFA headquarters so far haven't been encouraging for Phoenix ears. Under Fifa rules, the Phoenix are required to release all players called up for the Oceania stage-three World Cup qualifiers on October 12 and 16, and March 22 and 26.
And Phoenix and All Whites coach Ricki Herbert has a clause in his contract that makes him a New Zealand Football employee during Fifa windows.
But Herbert was surprisingly bullish about coaching a Phoenix team complete with its international players in games against the Heart (October 14) and the Jets (March 23).
"We just have to work through it in the smartest, [most] professional way that we can," Herbert said.
It's a staggering development, given that the All Whites just crashed out of the Oceania Nations Cup and with it, lost their ticket to next year's Confederations Cup. Have any lessons been learnt from Honiara?
NZF chief executive Grant McKavanagh was reluctant to play hardball with Herbert until the Phoenix's discussions with the FFA were complete.
"We hope sanity would prevail and we can come to an agreement where those particular games are moved outside the windows," McKavanagh said. "But it's pretty clear to us that we have to put the strongest side possible out for all these games and make sure we give ourselves the absolute ultimate opportunity to get through to the intercontinental playoff.
"I haven't had a discussion with Rick in relation to it just yet and we just have to have a look at exactly how that works."
There's no doubt that both the Phoenix and NZF have been handed a dud hand by the FFA, but if push comes to shove, surely World Cup qualifiers take precedence over the A-League.
Even Phoenix general manager David Dome seemed resigned to that, saying: "I'm sure Ricki and the All Whites are going to want those players in camp for that time. Even if we wanted to, it's very difficult to pull players out of one camp and put them into our starting lineup, and then have them leave right after.
"It would disrupt both programmes and I don't think it's likely, put it that way."
But Herbert reckoned an October juggling act, involving up to seven players, was possible.
The All Whites are away to Tahiti on October 12, before the Phoenix meet the Heart in Melbourne on the 14th and then the All Whites host Tahiti on the 16th. That's three games in five days in three different countries for two different teams.
"The opening game on the 12th, we could probably get players to Melbourne in time," said Herbert. "It's not ideal that they don't have windows, that's the first thing.
"There're a lot of grey areas that we'll cross when we get there. Once I speak to the players here too, it's about how many of these guys are going to be in the squad?
"I mean if [Winston] Reid plays and [Ryan] Nelsen plays and [Tommy] Smith plays and [Marco] Rojas plays and [Kosta] Barbarouses plays and [Chris] Wood. Potentially how many will play?"
Meanwhile, Herbert said the Phoenix, who kick off their season on October 6 in Wellington, hoped to announce a new assistant coach within "the next week or so".
Chris Greenacre was one of several "good possibilities", but it was more likely the Englishman would work with the club's academy system, which may extend to Auckland and Christchurch.