THE race to bring David Beckham to Australia is officially on after the former England international declared he would play one final match for his American side LA Galaxy before seeking ''a new challenge''.
Six A-League clubs have publicly declared themselves in the running to bring Beckham to Australia, with only Sydney FC, Melbourne Victory, Brisbane Roar and the Newcastle Jets ruling themselves out.
Beckham will give a press conference in Los Angeles at 6am Wednesday, Sydney time, where he is expected to outline his plans, however, it is unlikely he will provide any specific details about his next port of call.
Perth Glory were the first Australian club to announce their interest in the 37-year-old last Friday, followed by Adelaide United over the weekend. Western Sydney and Wellington Phoenix have cautiously hinted at making an offer.
However, things went up a notch yesterday when Beckham released a statement through the LA Galaxy website that the December 1 MLS Cup final against Houston Dynamo would be his final match in the US.
Not long after that, Melbourne Heart chief executive Scott Munn declared his club wanted to bring Beckham to Victoria.
Central Coast also threw their hat into the ring last night, and while they might be the smallest club in the league, they boast access to some of the deepest pockets in Australia - those of advertising guru John Singleton. Mariners owner Peter Turnbull told Fairfax Media his club was putting the finishing touches on a 10-game deal to lure Beckham.
''We're in the final process of putting a package together which we think will be very attractive for David Beckham and his family,'' he said. ''We're putting it as an all-of-community proposal. We've got backing from John Singleton, prominent large businesses, potentially local government - we're getting the whole region on board with this one.''
Turnbull said the area was ''in need of a big lift'' that signing Beckham would provide. ''We need some uplifting news. We've got high a youth unemployment rate and suicide rates that are some of the highest in the country,'' he said. ''While it's a beautiful place that many think of as a place to have a weekend away, there are bigger problems that the club has always tried to address and we see David Beckham as being able to lift the whole community. It's not just a football question for us.''
While interest is obviously nationwide, Turnbull said Beckham ''wouldn't want to live anywhere but Sydney, and we're just a very short drive from Sydney, so it's perfect for his family to live here''.
Heart were bullish enough to hold a press conference with chief Munn outlining their ''absolutely legitimate'' interest in the former Manchester United midfielder. ''It's certainly real, we're putting forward an offer, it's compelling,'' he said.
''Let's let David get through next week, play the final of the MLS and hopefully he'll have a win. Then I'm sure he'll assess every offer.''
America's most prominent football journalist, Grant Wahl, wrote in the Sports Illustrated the A-League was being strongly considered. ''[Beckham] indicated in the press release on Monday that he feels he has one more playing adventure left in him, and a source told me on Monday night that his future could include China, Paris, Australia, Brazil, Italy, England or Russia,'' Wahl said.
Beckham's statement reflected his goodwill towards the club he joined in 2007. ''I've had an incredibly special time playing for the LA Galaxy, however, I wanted to experience one last challenge before the end of my playing career,'' he said.