NEW YORK — It might be a home run for Major League Soccer.
The Yankees stepped up to the plate with famed British soccer team Manchester City to bring the long-rumored second professional soccer team to the city, officials announced Tuesday.
“This is a transformational moment for Major League Soccer and soccer in America as we welcome our 20th club, an expansion team called New York City FC,” MLS commissioner Don Garber said in a conference call Tuesday afternoon.
But the home for the New York City Football Club, which is expected to join the league in 2015, is still very much up for debate with critics saying that the proposed site of Flushing Meadows-Corona Park is a land grab.
"The proposal for a stadium inside the heart of Flushing Meadows-Corona Park is deeply flawed and would irrevocably damage a community resource," the Fairness Coalition of Queens said in a statement. "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."
Manchester City, owned by Sheikh Mansour bin Zayed al Nahyan of the United Arab Emirates, will be the majority owner, while, as an investor, the Yankees will be a minority owner. Manchester City will fork over the expansion fee to Major League Soccer, reportedly in the neighborhood of $100 million.
The clubs already have a business partnership through Legends Hospitality, LLC, an international entertainment, hospitality and marketing organization.
There’s also the possibility the Yankees’ YES Network will broadcast New York City FC games, while the Stadium could also be a temporary home for the team.
“I think there’s going to be a lot of synergies,” Yankees president Randy Levine said. “Obviously we’re here, we have a network … we know how to operate a franchise in this area, we know how to market and gain sponsors.”
There was talk that the New York Cosmos (which counted Pele among its ranks in its prior incarnation decads ago) could have possibly become the second MLS New York City franchise, but that ended with Tuesday’s announcement.
Still, the club that is set to embark on its second incarnation in the second-tier North American Soccer League, said they will continue on with business as usual.
“We’ve known about Manchester City and Major League Soccer’s plans for many months,” Cosmos COO Erik Stover said. “We believe any investment in soccer in North America is great for the sport. We remained focused on our home opener on Aug. 3 and our plans to build a stadium at Belmont Park. As a storied New York club, we welcome another rival in New York.”
Manchester City will be playing Chelsea in an exhibition match at Yankee Stadium Saturday and the stadium has hosted a number of soccer events in recent years.
“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 Hal Steinbrenner, managing general partner of the Yankees. “We look forward to the opportunity to 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 CEO of Manchester City, Ferran Soriano said that he wants to listen to community input before selecting a site.
“In considering any stadium site, we will listen first," he said. "This is what we have done in Manchester and what we will do in New York.”
The addition of New York City FC will create a natural rivalry with the area’s existing Major League Soccer club, the New York Red Bulls, who play at Red Bull Arena in Harrison, N.J. Garber said the plan to add a second New York team was part of the league’s original business plan in 1996.
“I’m convinced, having seen what happens in the Pacific Northwest, having witnessed live what’s happened in Manchester and other cities around the world, that this will turn into something that will be very valuable and very exciting for all,” Garber said.
Manchester City has already been involved with charitable works in New York City grassroots soccer since 2010. The program entitled “City Soccer in the Community,” is headquartered at PS 72, which boasts the city’s only rooftop soccer field, provided soccer instruction to children in 20 city public schools each year.
New York City FC will look to expand community outreach in all five boroughs, according to the press release.
“Soccer is one of the world’s most exciting and popular sports, and it should be played on the world’s biggest stage -- in New York City,” said Mayor Michael Bloomberg. “New Yorkers are the greatest sports fans in the world, and they will welcome a Major League Soccer franchise with the full-throated and loyal support they are famous for.”