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.