BY LUIS GRONDA
Major League Soccer officially announced on Tuesday the addition of its 20th franchise to the league, but where exactly will that team call its home remains up in the air.
New York City Football Club will be the latest addition to a league that has continued to add teams since its inaugural season in 1996. The club will be co-owned by English Premier League powerhouse Manchester City and the New York Yankees. NYCFC is expected to begin playing in 2015. The English club is owned by United Arab Emirates Deputy Prime Minister Shiek Mansour bin Zayed Al Nahyan, which drew protests from many civic groups last week, demanding that the City concentrate on rebuilding Flushing Meadows Corona Park.
Manchester City will be majority owner of NYCFC, concentrating on building the team itself and the Yankees, the minority owner, helping the soccer club with the business side of the team.
MLS Commissioner Don Garber touted the addition in a statement released by MLS, saying that it will be greatly beneficial to both the league and New York City.
“This is a transformational development that will elevate the league to new heights in this country. The New York area is home to more than 19 million people, and we look forward to an intense crosstown rivalry between New York City Football Club and the New York Red Bulls that will captivate this great city,” he said.
Although NYCFC will begin play in two years, questions remain about where the club will ultimately call its permanent home.
According to the league’s announcement, NYCFC will play in a temporary location until a deal for permanent home is finalized.
Flushing Meadows Corona Park has been the league’s number one target to place the soccer stadium and Garber said that the league continues to negotiate with the City to hammer out that deal.
The announcement released by the league leaves open the possibility that the stadium could be build else where.
“The club says it will continue the discussions already under way with the City of New York, local residents, community and business leaders, and soccer leagues about a possible new stadium in Flushing Meadows Corona Park in Queens, while also continuing to look at other potential sites,” the announcement read.
This comes after Garber declared last month that there was no other option for the stadium besides FMCP.
During a Tuesday afternoon conference call with reporters, Garber said that they are still working to get a stadium deal completed and they will look at a site that makes sense for the league and the City after speaking with community members about the stadium.
As for the interim venue for the team, Garber said that it was too early to talk about where NYCFC will play first, although Yankees president Randy Levine, also present during the conference call, said that Yankee Stadium and Citi Field are possible sites for the temporary stadium.
When reached by telephone, a New York Mets spokesperson declined to comment on the announcement of the new MLS team.
When asked about the recent protests against the sheik by community members, Garber said that they go through a comprehensive process when selecting a new owner and ensure that they all abide by the rules set forth by the league. He added that, with Al Nahyan entering the fray, it will diversify the league’s ownership group.
Both Levine and Ferran Soriano, the CEO of Manchester City, praised their partnership with MLS during the conference call.
“We are believers of developing soccer in the United States,” Soriano said. “This opportunity in New York is huge for us.”
“We believe this is a solid opportunity and a wise investment for us,” Levine said.
New Yorkers For Parks and Make The Road New York, two organizations that have raised concerns about building the stadium in FMCP, both released statements reacting to the announcement. Both were pleased about MLS considering other areas to build the stadium.
“New Yorkers for Parks… is particularly pleased that Major League Soccer and the New York City Football Club are open to exploring alternative sites for a stadium outside the heart of Flushing Meadows Corona Park – Queens’ most heavily used public space.
We look forward to continuing to work with the Bloomberg Administration, MLS and the team to find a more appropriate location for NYCFC’s permanent home,” said NYFP director of communications, James Yolles. “We look forward to finding a more appropriate home for the team that does not sacrifice public parkland and that does not give away parkland to a documented human rights abuser. Let’s make this a development that all New Yorkers can be excited about,” said Javier Valdes, co-executive director of Make The Road New York.
Reach Reporter Luis Gronda at (718) 357-7400, Ext. 127 or at firstname.lastname@example.org.