MLS to announce something about a NYC franchise, sometime

MLS commissioner Don Garber is apparently either making progress in lobbying New York City to approve free public parkland and $100 million in tax breaks for a new soccer stadium in Queens, or he’s just sick of waiting. Either way, he’s announced that New York could be selected as the league’s 20th franchise within four weeks:

“We’re making progress,” Garber told reporters when asked about the potential of a new franchise in the New York area. “We continue – you’ve heard this for the last year – but we continue to negotiate with the city of New York, meet with local political folks and community leaders to get support for the stadium we hope to build in Flushing Meadow Park. We are deeply engaged with potential ownership groups, and we are hopeful to be able to announce a 20th team within the next three to four weeks, perhaps, so the timing’s accelerated a little bit.”

Garber then corrected himself, shifting the time frame.

“I should moderate that — four to six weeks,” he said, laughing as he added, “Got that? four to six weeks, not three to four.”

Got it. Because being “hopeful” of an announcement within six weeks is so very different from being hopeful of getting on in four.

So what exactly does Garber expect is going to happen by the end of May? Howard Megdal of Capital New York notes that “It’s hard to believe the remaining obstacles have been completely overcome in such a way that the stadium can move forward on that timetable; the stadium has yet to be approved by the City Council.” (In fact, any stadium will have to go through the nine-month ULURP land-use process, so the earliest it could be approved would be next February.) The cable news channel NY1 reports (citing “sources”) that “league officials will unveil their proposal for a 25,000-seat venue as soon as a month from now,” but unveiling a proposal isn’t at all the same thing as having one finalized.

So what on earth does Garber think he’s going to say in six weeks? Announcing that New York has been chosen for an expansion franchise before getting a stadium deal done goes against every tenet of sports subsidy shakedowns: The league would be giving up all its leverage if it committed itself to New York before the council committed land and money. There have been persistent rumors that the owner of the Premier League champion Manchester City club could be set to buy a New York MLS franchise, so maybe it’ll be some sort of “We have an owner and a team and a stadium lined up for you as soon as you sign here on the dotted line” kind of deal.

It’d still be a slightly weird move, but with Mayor Michael Bloomberg, the project’s main backer, out the door at the end of this year and his potential successors determinedly noncommittal on the MLS stadium plan, Garber might see this as his last best chance to grab a prime location for a New York franchise. With no vote possible until 2014, though, when there will be a new mayor and a new city council (the current council speaker, Christine Quinn, is term-limited out and running for mayor), it’s nearl inconceivable to imagine that anything will be finalized in the next six months, let alone six weeks.

8 comments on “MLS to announce something about a NYC franchise, sometime

  1. I’d like to use this forum to pre-announce that I will be building a $300m house in three to four weeks. Make that four to six, I don’t want to mislead you all on that. Four to Six it is.

    Things are progressing very well… I have a site in mind that I do not presently own. Actually, somebody else owns it and there’s something on it at present. But I don’t see that as an obstacle at all.

    I also have some ideas on how money could be raised from other people to pay for my new house, and who the people who pay for it should be. Nothing I can announce right now, but I assure you all, I’m totally on top of this thing and it will happen.

    It’s not if, it’s when. Totally. Fer shur.

  2. Don’t be surprised if an “agreement” suddenly pops up at 5pm the Friday of Memorial Day weekend.

  3. They can cut a deal with the mayor and council speaker, but then there’s a mandatory nine months of community board and council hearings to go through. And at the end of that time you won’t have the same mayor and speaker, so.

  4. Neil:
    If they get into the ULURP process, it’s most likely that the stadium will come to fruition (especially if Quinn is mayor). Entering ULURP process usually means that all of the important people are either enthusiastically supportive or have required appropriate trade offs as to minimally support or drop objections.

    It’s also highly unlikely that there will be much council turnover – it’s basically impossible to unseat a sitting councilperson and the successors are often selected by the outgoing seat-holder.

    So my guess is that there is a lot of backdoor dealing happening right now, with the goal of entering ULURP before the change in administration. ULURP is less about insuring public input than it is about providing a way for development interests to manage public input while still getting what they want.

    But we’ll see,

  5. Has anyone answered on why the MLS wants a second franchise in NYC? LA has two and one is doing horribly on the financial side.

    I get going to 20 teams, but why the intense focus on NYC which has a team over say San Antonio, Miami or San Diego.

  6. Because if you’re a rich member of the royal family from abu dhabi you’d prefer to tell people you own a pro soccer team in New York City vs one in San Antonio or San Diego. With an expansion fee of $100 mil it sounds like the league would have preferred another city as well.

    I’m not sure if this is gov’t waste or just being practical –
    The city said it was in “active discussions” with M.L.S. But pending a final deal, the Parks Department is spending $2 million to install two new soccer fields and make other repairs to the land where the proposed stadium would sit.

  7. JMauro:

    I will defer to actual New Yorkers on this matter, but I suspect MLS wants a ‘second’ team in New York because the first one actually isn’t.

    What they’d really like is to be in Manhattan, but far better funded leagues than MLS have failed at that. So, Brooklyn/Queens will ‘do’, I guess.

    I do wonder how the relatively new owners of RBNY feel about all this, however. They have paid a pretty hefty price to own a “NY” franchise and to build a dedicated stadium for that club. Now it looks like MLS is using pooled money to try and induce another owner to sweep in and take over the NY marketplace (in as much as the NY market actually cares about MLS, of course).

    Hard to know about San Antonio… the NASL owner there is spending heavily on building up a solid soccer infrastructure. I don’t know what his long term plan is, but he’s certainly spending like someone who expects to be in MLS at some point. Time will tell.

  8. Soccer fans in Atlanta are fuming over this one. They were promised* an MLS team and maybe even hosting duties for the World Cup if they’d support $600,000,000 – $900,000,000 in public funding for a new NFL stadium. The Falcons got their money and now it appears that MLS doesn’t even have Atlanta on its radar.

    * Those involved in pushing through public funding for the new stadium were always careful how they worded statements that most would take to be promises so they’re not actually on the hook for anything.