Everton are moving closer to a £200m takeover after talks with an American consortium.
The group, led by former San Diego Padres owner John Jay Moores and fellow entrepreneur Charles Noell, have been in talks with Toffees owner Bill Kenwright in recent months.
Moores and Noell were previously interested in investing in Swansea.
The pair have spent a six-week due diligence period looking at Everton’s accounts.
In addition to speaking to chairman Kenwright, they have had talks with the club’s other major shareholders, Robert Earl and Jon Woods.
The Toffees have declined to comment on the latest interest – but in 2015 there were several parties considering a deal to buy the Premier League club.
In October, City of London sources revealed to BBC Sport that American investors, some with links to Major League Soccer side Sporting Kansas City, were exploring the purchase of Everton.
Kenwright has conducted a search for investment stretching back more than a decade but the latest moves are felt by those close to the club as representing the most positive and hopeful development since the theatre impresario indicated his willingness to sell.
Kenwright, who bought the club from Peter Johnson for £20m on 26 December 1999, said as far back as November 2007: “If the right person stands in front of me and wants to take this club forward then I will sell.”
Former Everton midfielder Peter Reid told BBC Radio 5 Live: “It’s my club and Goodison Park – as much as I love it – I think Everton need a new football ground.
“We’ve got a great squad of players and a good manager but we need to get a new stadium to keep pace with the other clubs in this Premier League. You need the revenue that generates. If Bill Kenwright says it’s OK – yes let’s get it done.”
It is understood that after years of inactivity regarding a sale, there has been a growing intensity and intent to do a deal in recent months, fuelled by growing, serious interest from a number of groups.
If the deal is completed it would mean both Merseyside Premier League clubs would be under American stewardship.
Moores, who bought baseball team San Diego Padres from Liverpool chairman Tom Werner for $80m (£53.7m) in 1994, is believed to be worth about £500m.
Moores and Noell have a background in technology. Moores founded BMC software and also JMI Equity, a venture capitalism arm of his empire, which Noell helped to co-found.