In this week’s New York City soccer news, the New York Mets owners say they’d be “open to discussing the use of Citi Field for a potential MLS team,” while MLS officials call the idea a “nonstarter.” Which is news, that is, if you missed all the other times the Mets owners have expressed interest in owning an MLS team, or all the times MLS commissioner Don Garber has said he only wants teams to play in soccer-only stadiums. Though I suppose this is the first time the Wilpons have explicitly offered to host a soccer team at Citi Field itself, and so the first time MLS could reject it.
On the one hand, soccer at Citi Field is a pretty terrible idea — though it’s fine as a plus-sized venue for the occasional international friendly, it’s way too big and oddly shaped to be ideal for an MLS franchise. On the other, it doesn’t require spending $300 million or taking public parkland, so as an interim measure to test whether there’s really a big market for MLS in Queens, you could do worse.
Except, of course, that right now “build it, or we won’t come” is the only leverage that MLS has to extract approval for a new stadium from the city, so they’re not going to give it up and risk having their interim solution stretch on for years, like things have with D.C. United. Of course, New York City has leverage, too — city officials could easily say, “Play in the place that’s already built, or take your act to some smaller media market” — but it’s not clear how willing they are to use it. Right now negotiations seem aimed at finding a way to make everybody happy, which is a nice goal, but when you’re talking about a building that will cost $300 million, plus $100 million in tax breaks, plus relocating public soccer fields and public parkland, there’s not going to be a lot of extra happy to go around.