The race for Usain Bolt appears to be down to two, with the Central Coast Mariners facing stiff competition from a new US franchise for the Jamaican sprint king’s services.
The incoming United Soccer League team in Austin has thrown their hat into the ring for the 31-year-old, keen to use his profile for a publicity boost as they prepare to enter the second tier of American soccer next year.
The Texas-based club is due to announce their name, colours, coach and several players next Friday.
According to the Statesman, the local newspaper in Austin, the franchise has been in discussions with Bolt’s agent Ricky Simms for several months.
However, Central Coast still appears to have the inside running according to comments from the USL team’s general manager Roberto Silva – but that could change in the coming days.
“The Australian team is in a better position than we are,” Silva told the Statesman.
“Financially, our proposal is far away from the one (Bolt) has over there.
“I think we beat them on all other aspects of the proposal besides the financial one, and we have our sponsorship team at this moment trying to meet with some local sponsors that could bring us very, very close to having him.”
Austin is the second USL team, after the Las Vegas Lights, to express interest in the eight-time Olympic champion.
While the Mariners want to run Bolt through a six-week trial, Silva intends to offer him a long-term contract that reportedly goes beyond football, positioning him as a spokesperson for the team, the city of Austin and “sports overall in the US”.
“Bolt is an icon. It’s very confident and aggressive of him to leave come out of being the best track and field athlete in the history of the sport, and leave that and say, ‘Hey, I’m going to be one of the best in another sport,'” Silva said.
“It’s very bold, if I may. That’s the attitude we want from our franchise.”
The Mariners remain locked in talks with Bolt’s management but won’t comment publicly about negotiations, claiming a confidentiality agreement is in place.