The fight to win the A-League might be fierce, but it's nothing compared to the battle just to join it.
Nowhere is the race hotter than in Melbourne, where three expansion bids present Football Federation Australia with a vexed choice.
Guided by a long-flagged intent to "fish where the fish are", FFA must hand Victoria a third club in the next round of expansion.
But which bid to choose?
NSL-era powerhouse South Melbourne claim to be ready to go not tomorrow but today, with a ready-made home ground and a promise to restore bridges to 'old soccer' broken by 'new football's modern administrators'.
Dandenong-based bid Team 11 boast remarkable community buy-in from Australia's biggest untapped region of soccer fans.
And Western Melbourne Group say their investors will bring many millions of dollars towards growing the game in another growth corridor.
Each bid has merit.
FFA learned as much on Thursday, when competition chief Greg O'Rourke led a delegation of executives to meet with the three hopefuls.
On Friday, the teams handed in their final bids, along with others shortlisted from across the country.
That includes Sydney's duelling Macarthur-South West Sydney and Southern Expansion bids, and submissions from Canberra and Wollongong.
Unfortunately for hopes of a second Queensland side, Brisbane City dropped out of the race on Friday, leaving Ipswich as the only option.
Melbourne hosts the most intrigue, where Team 11 have been cast as frontrunners, especially with the weight of 50 local clubs and 12 local councils pledging support.
"We know there are those so-called metrics on our side – more than 1.7 million people, more than 22,000 registered players and so on," project officer Matt Windley said.
"We have geographic separation form Victory and City and to have [Victory chairman] Anthony Di Pietro talk so positively about us in May was great."
Their biggest hurdle is the lack of a stadium.
Bid bosses say a 15,000-seater will be built in Dandenong with government support should FFA select Team 11.
Across in the West, a group of self-styled football entrepreneurs hope their pledge for no public funds in a similarly sized stadium carries the day.
"Our strengths are the building and owning of our own world-class, football-only stadium," bid spokesman Maurice Bisetto said.
"It's a massive differentiator for us, for the game and future bids."
South bid spokesman Bill Papastergiadis says the Oceania club of the 20th century would turn a profit from day one playing out of Lakeside Stadium.
"We are a ready-made A-League club. Low risk. High return," he said.
"We have bipartisan government support in Victoria at the highest level and we have arguably the best junior football program for boys and girls in the country."
Beyond the positive positioning of each bid, a vicious whispering campaign shows the stakes involved.
One bid believes another to be "dead" without government support.
Another purports existing A-League clubs have made their priorities clear to FFA, warning of a backlash to a less than desired result.
They'll all learn their fates by late October, when FFA choose their 11th and 12th A-League members.