"Build the wall, build the wall, build the wall" were the words chanted by thousands at virtually every Donald Trump rally.

And while the president's signature policy is still in the early stages of its political journey, next week marks a key turning point.

Wednesday 5 April is the deadline for the hundreds of companies interested in building Donald Trump's "great, great wall" on the US-Mexico border – to submit concept papers detailing their proposals.

Those familiar with Trump's celebrity lifestyle will recognise the process being remarkably like that of his beauty pageants and Apprentice TV show.

After an initial elimination round, the remaining contestants will submit more detailed technical proposals.

Another round of cuts will ensue – it is unknown if Trump will say "you're fired" at this point – and then a group of finalists will convene in San Diego, California, to construct both a 30ft-long prototype of their design and a 10ft by 10ft "mock-up" that will be used by the government to "test and evaluate the anti-destruct characteristics" of the design.

The government's initial pre-solicitation notice for the border wall asked for 30ft-tall "concrete wall structures", but when the request for proposals was published on 17 March, the scope was expanded to allow for "other" proposals.

So, while some companies will move ahead with reinforced concrete, others can put forward ideas for alternative materials.

All proposals must meet some baseline standards, including being "physically imposing in height" with "anti-climb" features and an "aesthetically pleasing" colour on the north side.

Non-concrete walls are also required to have a "see-through component" to increase "situational awareness".

The initial deadline to enter the X-Factor style competition was meant to be Wednesday 29 March but was extended at the last minute to next week.

The US border fence passes through the South Texas town of Pernitas, Texas, 18 November 2016 Reuters/Jon Herskovitz

Delays for the wall?

But the wall may be delayed as Republicans consider putting its funding on hold.

Senator Roy Blunt (R-MO) said cash for the wall would be left out of a spending bill that must pass by 28 April to avert a partial government shutdown.

Trump had proposed $1.5bn (£1.2bn) for his wall through Congress as part of the spending bill, which funds federal agencies to the end of the current fiscal year.

But Democrats have threatened to block the bill if money for the controversial wall is included.

The government would shut down some federal agencies at midnight on 28 April if Congress is unable to pass the spending bill.