MLS expansion in New York City could bring soccer to Yankee Stadium

Martin Rogers
Yahoo! Sports

The New York Yankees paired up with the world's richest soccer club on Tuesday in a dramatic move that will see the iconic baseball franchise acquire Major League Soccer's newest team and potentially stage games at Yankee Stadium.

MLS chiefs revealed that the Yankees and Manchester City, the 2012 English Premier League champion backed by the endless wealth of the Abu Dhabi royal family, will combine to own New York City Football Club, which is expected to begin MLS play in 2015.

The intriguing prospect of the team sharing Yankee Stadium is a likely one, at least until the new organization finds or builds a stadium of its own.

''Yankee Stadium is an option, as are many places,'' Yankees president Randy Levine said.

City's owners shelled out a record $100 million "franchise fee" to MLS for the rights to operate a team and will own a majority share, with the Yankees' stake amounting to around 25 percent.

"We are pleased to be associated with this major move by MLS to increase its presence in the New York market and to enhance the opportunity for New York soccer fans to enjoy high-level play in their own city," said Yankees managing general partner Hal Steinbrenner. "We look forward to the opportunity to work with Manchester City to create something very special for the soccer fans of New York – and to bringing another terrific team to this city for all sports fans to enjoy."

The new acquisition and the mighty financial muscle possessed by the City/Yankees partnership has the ability to significantly alter the MLS landscape and there is little chance that either franchise will be content with being just another team in the league.

Upon purchasing City in 2008, the Abu Dhabi group set about furnishing the squad with some of the best, most expensive players in the world, turning a team mired in mediocrity for years into one of the EPL's signature members.

A club source told Yahoo! Sports on Tuesday that a similar approach should be expected in the Big Apple, albeit on a smaller scale to reflect the structural differences between European and American soccer.

"This is not some little side project," said the source. "It is an important part of building the brand of Manchester City Football Club and in that sense it is crucial that the new team represents the overall message in the right way.

"There has already been a deep financial commitment to buy the rights to operate and that will be matched by a commitment to build a team that can hopefully be the best in the league. MLS obviously has some salary cap restrictions that we don't have in England but expect some major signings.

"Things are not at that stage yet," the source continued, "but the blueprint can be expected to be a combination of big names, high-quality imports, a strong core of experienced American players, plus an efficient development system to build future talent."

Serious talks between City and the MLS hierarchy have been ongoing for several months, but the addition of the Yankees to the deal was a more recent development. It is hoped that the Yankees can provide some political leverage in the New York market when it comes to seeking permission for a new stadium, possibly in the Flushing-Corona Park area in the borough of Queens.

There were already links between the two organizations, as the Yankees' expanding corporate hospitality business has a long-term contract to provide services at City's Etihad Stadium.

New York already has one MLS team, the Red Bulls, who play in Harrison, N.J., and includes the league's highest-paid player in French superstar Thierry Henry.

"This is a transformational development that will elevate the league to new heights in this country," said MLS commissioner Don Garber. "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."

New York City F.C. will become the league's 20th team – a number that is likely to remain steady for the next few years following a period of rapid expansion. MLS had only 10 teams in 2002, and just 12 in 2006.

Tuesday's announcement was timed to coincide with the arrival of Manchester City for a mini-tour of the United States, with the team set to face EPL rival Chelsea in St. Louis on Thursday and at Yankee Stadium on Saturday.

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