MLS announces NYC expansion team for 2015, to play … somewhere

And just like that, MLS has announced a new expansion franchise for New York City:

Major League Soccer Commissioner Don Garber announced today that a partnership of global sports powers, Manchester City Football Club and the New York Yankees, has acquired the League’s 20thexpansion club. The new team will be named New York City Football Club (NYCFC) and expects to begin play in 2015.

“We proudly welcome two of the most prestigious professional global sports organizations to Major League Soccer,” said MLS Commissioner Don Garber.“This is a transformational development that will elevate the league to new heights in this country. 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.”

This announcement was expected for a while now, but there are a couple of unexpected bits:

  • First off, the involvement of the Yankees, which seems like mostly a minority investment and an excuse to get Randy Levine — the former deputy mayor with the apoplectic purple face — involved in stadium negotiations. Levine managed to get the new Yankee Stadium project shepherded through the political process largely before anyone had noticed, and while it’s too late to do the same here, his political connections can only come in handy for MLS.
  • The New York City Football Club (which incidentally is a terrible name — they couldn’t at least have gone with F.C. New York?) will, according to the MLS website’s report, “arrange for an interim venue but will also seek a permanent home in New York.” This is a bit of a surprise, given that the best leverage MLS had was to refuse to grant the expansion team until a stadium site was approved — doing it this way risks that they find a temporary venue (Citi Field? New Yankee Stadium? The newly turfed Brooklyn Cyclones stadium?) and then once they’re here nobody wants to shell out the money or the land for a whole new stadium, as we’ve seen happen some other places.

Presumably the MLS’s bet is that the two will cancel each other out: Even if pre-announcing the team before getting the stadium reduces leverage, Levine will be able to strong-arm something through the city council regardless. Though the MLS announcement also said that the league will “continue to look at other potential sites,” so maybe they’re backing off of the Flushing Meadows deal entirely. Or maybe that’s more leverage to tell Queens pols, “Give us parkland or we’ll go to Staten Island!” Only Randy really knows for sure.


25 comments on “MLS announces NYC expansion team for 2015, to play … somewhere

  1. Neil:
    The Yankees involvement is more than just trying to have a stadium built-Legends Hospitality also is in charge of the concessions for the stadium In Manchester and with Dave Checketts both investing in and running the company they are also now expanding into stadium management.

    The Yankees will also own approximately 25% of the soccer team itself.

    Bruce Ratner has also made Legends a part of the proposal to renovate the Nassau Coliseum as the concessionaire.

    With the construction of the Atlantic Yards project lagging-there are only three apartment buildings so far scheduled to be constructed (with only one currently under construction)-all on the Barclays Center site-why not use part of the rail yard for a soccer stadium? No parkland would have to be replaced. The stadium would be built with private funds. You have mass transit access. All you would need is ESDC (and Ratner) approval.

    Interesting to say the least.

  2. Oh, I understand what’s in it for the Yankees. I just was trying to understand what’s in it for MLS. (As a side note, this is only likely to make the Wilpons an even more implacable enemy to the Queens stadium project. Not that they have all that much pull at this point.)

    I don’t think that there’s enough room on the Atlantic Yards site for a soccer stadium. Also, I suspect that all the groups that were promised affordable housing would scream bloody murder if they got a 20-events-a-year soccer stadium instead.

  3. “The stadium would be built with private funds.”
    When taxpayers hear this, HIDE YOUR WALLETS!

  4. Paul, Man City ponied up $16M for Adam Johnson. They have more money to waste than even Abramovich at Chelsea. Sheik Mansour (City’s owner) could pay for the stadium with the piles of cash in his couch cushion. If there ever was an instance where I’d be inclined to believe someone when they say they will privately pay for the stadium, this might be it.

  5. Having piles of money doesn’t necessary mean wanting to spend piles of money. There’s a reason they got it in the first place, after all.

    Anyway, we already know a good bit about what the financing plan will look like: http://www.fieldofschemes.com/2012/12/05/4189/mls-queens-stadium-could-require-more-than-100-million-in-tax-breaks/

  6. Neil — Re the suggestion of “F.C. New York”, a club by that name played in the third-tier in 2011, and promptly folded, so, someone owns the rights to that name, and ideally you would like to avoid even the slightest risk of brand confusion anyway. Plus, MLS surely wants to emphasize “City” in the name, to make it abundantly clear that they are actually in New York and not in New York the way Harrison, NJ is in New York.

  7. Okay, but unlike Manchester City F.C., New York City is actually the name of the city. So nobody’s going to just call this team “New York City” like they say “Manchester City.”

    As a friend of mine remarked, with a name like “New York City Football Club” they should wear generic black-and-white uniforms with plain Helvetica lettering.

  8. My 10-year-old son, who was sitting here while I was typing this, just remarked when I told him what I was doing: “That’s the team name? Um, change the name, please!”

  9. I don’t know, in conversation Real Madrid CF often becomes “Madrid”, AC MIlan becomes “Milan”, and I think this club becomes simply “NYC”, which kind of rolls off the tongue like “PSG” (Paris Saint-Germain), so I don’t think it’s so bad.

  10. Very common to have “FC” after the name of the city but like Ted P said teams dont go by their official “full” name. Mexico’s most popular team is named “Club Deportivo Guadalajara” or Guadalajara Football Club, but this team is only known by one name “Chivas” (the goats).

    NYC FC will get their own nickname and that will grow the brand. Probably less in the MLS but worldwide its common for a team to have a very long name but get marketed with a nickname.

  11. It’s fine branding internationally, but terrible locally. No one in New York is going to call the team “City,” because there are million other things here called “city,” and no one will know they’re talking about a soccer team. Same goes for just saying “New York.” Introducing a nickname is a better option, but Americans are desperately confused by that convention overseas (“What do you mean Chelsea is the Blues, but they’re not the Chelsea Blues?”). Just seems like a battle you don’t want to have to fight when you’re trying to win fans for a new team.

  12. yeah thats a good point, this is an uphill battle for these owners. I was trying to think of some nicknames for teams in the NFL, MLB or NBA that get marketed…

    over here in the bay area i have seen the “dubs” for the warriors

  13. Geuy, only real marketed nicknames I can think of that isn’t a shortening is “Habs” for the Montreal Canadiens and “Bolts” for the Tampa Bay Lightning.

  14. A whole host of baseball teams got their nicknames in the same fashion that European clubs traditionally garnered theirs (i.e. Reds, Red Sox, White Sox, Athletics, etc.).

    In modern usage (i.e. etymology of names aside and not shortenings), there’s also…
    Pittsburgh Pirates = Bucs
    Cleveland Indians = Tribe
    Arizona Diamondbacks = Snakes

  15. Further, in usage within cities (baseball, at least):
    Orioles = Birds
    Red Sox = the Nation
    Cubs = Northsiders
    White Sox = Southsiders
    Marlins = Fish
    Angels = Halos
    Brewers = Crew
    Yankees = Bronx Bombers
    Cardinals = Birds / Redbirds

  16. I guess my more constricted meaning was in line with your first list…lots of nicknames for lots of teams, but don’t see them advertised as such a lot.

  17. Ty -

    Habs is actually the shortened form of “Les Habitants” the French name of the Canadiens.

  18. There’s a reason they got it in the first place, after all.

    Well, in Sheik Mansour’s place, it’s because he was born into it and born into it on land sitting on top of millions of gallons of dead dinosaur liquid.

    The financing plan you linked to Neil, might not longer even be in play. While Queens was the preferred site, that might all have to be rethought now that the Yankees are a partner in this. Now, one of their benefits as a partner might be them saying to Mansour, “Whoa, hey, don’t promise your money. You don’t have to do that here in America,” then helping them land all kinds of tax money and subsidies (and IIRC when the initial announcement of the Abu Dhabi group leaked a couple of weeks back, one of the things they said was that they would pay for the stadium themselves (think it was $100M for the team $300M for the stadium/rebuild park lands) but I can’t find a link).

    Now, I know they can say anything they want. But given the way they have thrown money around at Man City, I wouldn’t be too surprised if they didn’t pay the majority of construction costs themselves. Not saying it’s a lock, not saying that because they are rich I implicitly trust them. I imagine they might get some subsidies (construction, property tax, etc), but of all the stadium deals out there being financed through various quasi-to-mostly public methods, this one is toward the bottom of things I might get outraged about. At least until there is a final site and plan in place.

  19. That’s been the plan in place all along, and right in line with the bulk of MLS stadiums: Team pays for construction, public provides land and tax breaks. (It’s how Red Bull Arena was built, for example.) The trick is going to be seeing how much the land and tax breaks come to.

  20. Finally found something but not the actual figure of the stadium. From the NYT yesterday: “In addition to paying for the proposed stadium in Queens, the sheik’s investment group would spend about $90 million to replace lost parkland and soccer fields, and on other measures.”

    Depending on where said parkland is, you could argue that replacing any park land they use is essentially paying for the land.

    Also this, while not explicitly saying plans are changing, pretty much saying plans might have to change w/r/t location: “With opposition growing, the new owners indicated Tuesday that they recognized that building a stadium in Flushing Meadows would be problematic, and that other sites may have to be considered. ‘Clearly, a lot of work has been done in Queens,’ Levine said. ‘That’s where the focus is. I don’t know if there is an alternative. But we have some time now to take a step back and breathe.’”

    Again, given the info that’s out there now, this seems way more way closer to an HDC situation where the public share of the total capital costs is almost nothing, and even including recurring public subsidies and costs, the ongoing public share is relatively low, than a Toyota Park where, “Holy shit, Bridgeview is paying what?”

  21. i dont see a stadium in the park anymore! The Mets control all that public land and will build a bigger mall than the stadium. The tennis crooks will also expand and and no park land will be replace. The new team owners don’t want to upset potential fans and get off to bad start. Also the Mets wont share parking for less than 40mil even though they dont own the lots. Said from beginning the good fair project that actually has some resident support will get axed in order to take attention off the two DEVIL projects that will totally RAPE that park.

  22. No, actually, the Mets don’t control the land that MLS wants — they control the Citi Field parking lot, which is technically parkland as well, but which is on the other side of Roosevelt Ave. and the train yards from the park.

    The Wilpons will no doubt not be happy about the Yankees having a share of a soccer club on their doorstep, but aside from lobbying against it, I’m not sure what they can do themselves to stop this.

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