A continued presence for the New Zealand Knights in the A-League isn't yet assured with funding issues looming as a major obstacle for three mystery consortiums keen to inherit the club's licence.
Football Federation Australia (FFA) officials met representatives of groups based in Auckland, Wellington and Palmerston North, with head of operations Matt Carroll optimistic one of the trio will be capable of running the A-League franchise.
Carroll and New Zealand Soccer (NZS) chief executive Graham Seatter would not reveal any specific details of the three suitors other than describing each bid as "different".
However, they all face the identical stumbling block before the FFA either backs one bid or rejects all three in favour of a new Australian franchise at a board meeting next month - raising $5 million to run the club next season.
"Funding is critical, particularly now they're going into a set-up phase again," Carroll said.
Crucially, the prospective owners needed enough reserves to tide them over until gate revenue kicks in when the third A-League season starts in August.
Costs are likely to be significant before then, with the playing roster needing to be assembled long before the first match.
"The biggest obstacle is funding that comes on line immediately," said Seatter, who was involved in the discussions.
"Gate revenue will not come in until the season starts but a player signed next week needs to be paid from next week.
"That's six months of wages before they get on the field and kick a ball and before anyone pays a dollar to watch them play."
Carroll and Seatter would not comment specifically on the funding levels already secured by the three parties but appeared confident enough could be sourced.
"We've had some very encouraging discussions," Carroll said.
"I think out of all of this we will have the necessary backers to ensure there is a strong New Zealand team."
Further discussions will be held with each bidder for the remainder of this week, with a preferred bidder ideally singled out by February 7.
Seatter emphasised NZS had no particular preference, saying all three had merit.
Each bidder agreed to have strong links with NZS and wanted caretaker coach Ricki Herbert to continue.