After years of very publicly planning and searching for a suitable ownership group to front a second MLS team in New York, the league has found it in a partnership between Manchester City owner Sheikh Mansour of Abu Dhabi and the New York Yankees. The new team will be called New York City FC and will begin play in 2015 as the league's 20th club. It also marks the resolution of a very public spat between MLS commissioner Don Garber and Yankees president Randy Levine.
According to Reuters, Sheikh Mansour, who has pumped hundreds of millions of pounds into Premier League club Man City since buying it in 2008, will be the "majority partner" in NYCFC while the Yankees will be an "active member of the ownership group." The new MLS club required a record $100 million franchise fee.
The Yankees' involvement is a bit surprising after Garber and Levine traded verbal barbs in 2009. While speaking to the Associated Press Sports Editors, Garber made mention of empty seats in the new Yankee Stadium and the Mets' Citi Field. Levine shot back by saying, "Don Garber discussing Yankee attendance must be a joke. We draw more people in a year than his entire league does in a year. If he ever gets Major League Soccer into the same time zone as the Yankees, we might take him seriously. Hey Don, worry about Beckham, not the Yankees. Even he wants out of your league." And now they're partners on an MLS club.
MLS's other New York club is owned by Austrian energy drink company Red Bull and play in a specially built three-year-old stadium in Harrison, NJ. The league has openly stated that they want to create a local rivalry for the New York Red Bulls with a new club based in one of New York City's five boroughs. Though that is still the plan, the club has been created before a proper home has been found.
In order to begin play in 2015, NYCFC will arrange for an interim venue but will also seek a permanent home in New York. 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 (FMCP) in Queens, while also continuing to look at other potential sites.
“New York City FC will have a permanent home in the City in the great traditions of New York sports and world soccer -- a home that must be a sports, commercial and civic success,” Soriano said. “But in considering any stadium site, we will listen first. This is what we have always done in Manchester and what we will do in New York. Only in this way, can the Club truly represent the City whose name it will carry.”
Levine said that "Yankee Stadium is a potential place to play" during the search for a permanent home for NYCFC, but the logistics of converting the field with both teams in season at the same time seem like they would be a headache for both the Yankees and MLS. Here's a time lapse video of that lengthy conversion process:
The reborn New York Cosmos, who begin play in the second-division NASL later this year, were thought to be favorites to become MLS's second New York club for a while now. But when the combination of the Yankees' name and Man City's endless money came along, it blew the Cosmos out of the water.
There has been talk that Man City would use an MLS club as something of a feeder team for their Premier League squad — sending young players and older cast-offs to America to develop and/or wallow until Man City decide what to do with them. Whether this type of set-up and relationship with a Premier League club is good for MLS remains to be seen, but the league's reputation as a developer of talent that can transition to the best leagues in the world has grown in recent years. But Man City have the resources to make NYCFC the biggest club in MLS (within its tight salary cap constraints, of course) and they say they plan on doing just that.
"Our first idea and our first objective is to bring to New York the best football club that we're able to produce," said Manchester City CEO Ferran Soriano. "And that means using all our expertise, our scouting network all over the world and also our players."
Soriano said that the club will bring to bear all its resources to ensure the club is successful.
"Obviously we're going to make extensive use of our resources and knowledge, not only in Manchester but globally," Soriano said. "The teams are going to have synergies all over, from the sports point of view and commercial point of view. We're lucky the name is very similar and the teams might look similar, but this is something we'll be working on in the coming months."
Surely by no coincidence, Man City are currently in New York, where they will a postseason friendly against Chelsea on Saturday at Yankee Stadium, of course.
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