DAVID Beckham is to leave LA Galaxy after next month's MLS Cup - with speculation surrounding his next move already gathering pace.
The 37-year-old is in line to end his six-year Galaxy stay in style as they defend their title against the Houston Dynamo on December 1 before seeking to extend his playing career elsewhere.
He said: "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.''
Although Beckham had an option on his contract, signed in January, for another year with the Galaxy, his decision to leave is no great surprise.
Football Federation Australia last week claimed it had been approached by the former Real Madrid and Manchester United star's camp with a view to the player spending a short stint in the A-League, though his spokesman described that as "rubbish''.
Perth Glory - one of the clubs to express an interest when the links with Beckham going Down Under first emerged - were quick to go public again this morning, tweeting: "David Beckham has confirmed the MLS Cup final will be his last game for the Galaxy. The race is on."
Melbourne Heart are another A-League side to throw their hat into the ring.
Heart chief executive Scott Munn told reporters: "I can't put a percentage term on it. What I can say is that it's certainly real, we're putting forward an offer, it's compelling and the opportunity is here for him to come here.”
China, the United Arab Emirates, Paris, England and even Brazil have been mentioned as potential destinations but wherever he goes, it will bring to an end an eventful career in MLS which saw the midfielder become the face of a new era for the sport in North America.
His final game will take place at the Galaxy's own Home Depot Center, where he arrived on the American stage as the first designated player in MLS back in 2007.
"I don't see this as the end of my relationship with the league as my ambition is to be part of the ownership structure in the future,'' Beckham added.
Beckham's stint in Los Angeles brought success in the form of the Galaxy's third MLS Cup crown last year.
But he also faced repeated criticism from some Galaxy fans, particularly early on in his stay, for a perceived lack of commitment to the cause.
Two loan stints at AC Milan, during the second of which he tore an Achilles tendon, as he attempted to keep his place in the England team did little to help that perception, as well as comments made while in Italy about the standard of football in America.
Two low points arrived back in 2009 when Beckham confronted a fan during a match after his every touch was booed and attracted criticism from team-mate Landon Donovan.
Since then he has won over many supporters, in no small part due to a dramatic upturn in form over the last two seasons, and he was voted the league's best player by fans earlier this year, although his detractors still remain, particularly among the club's hardcore followers known as the LA Riot Squad.
Beckham was brought to America as much for the effect of his brand as his on-field ability, and MLS commissioner Don Garber believes he has been successful in helping to grow the sport.
"When David Beckham signed with the LA Galaxy in 2007, he set out to help grow MLS and the sport of soccer in North America,'' he said.
"There is no doubt that MLS is far more popular and important here and abroad than it was when he arrived.
"David has achieved great things on and off the field during his time with the Galaxy, and he will always be an important part of our history. We look forward to his continued involvement with the LA Galaxy and the league.''
Beckham's initial contract with the league included a clause allowing him to be involved in owning an expansion team down the line.
Beckham negotiated his deal to join the Galaxy while at Real Madrid at the start of 2007, when he was out of favour with then coach Fabio Capello.
In Spain he added one league title to the six he won in England with United, as well as one FA Cup and a Champions League title in 1999 during United's storied treble season.
Capello later made Beckham a big part his England team - after being sidelined and subsequently recalled by previous manager Steve McClaren - ensuring he became the country's most capped outfield player.
The Achilles injury suffered at Milan ruled him out of the 2010 World Cup, however, and he was surprisingly left out of Stuart Pearce's Great Britain Olympic squad this summer.