By DAN KARELL
It may have taken 18 years to become a reality, but Major League Soccer commissioner Don Garber finally accomplished one of the league’s original goals.
MLS announced on Tuesday that the newest franchise in the league will be New York City Football Club, putting a second team in the New York metro area. The team will be run by Manchester City FC, with the New York Yankees taking an active minority role in the club as well.
Before the team even gets on the field in 2015, there are plenty of obstacles to overcome including building a stadium, working within the MLS salary constraints when fielding a team, and creating a fan base from which to build upon.
On the stadium front, MLS has been in negotiations with the city of New York for over a year in acquiring parkland in Flushing Meadows-Corona Park to build a soccer-specific stadium, but have yet to finalize the transfer of land.
“The ownership group will look at what we’ve been able to present to them, and try to see if that site is one that makes sense, “Garber said during a media teleconference on Tuesday featuring Yankees President Randy Levine and Manchester City CEO Ferran Soriano. “But (MLS will present to them) only after they’ve gone out into the community, to get the community to understand their goals and objectives, and to get their support.”
Levine added that Yankee Stadium is a possibility to play games during the summer of 2015 even with a full Major League Baseball schedule, though Garber wouldn’t commit to naming a place.
Relatively new on the international scene, Manchester City have done well recently to grow their American base, but it will take more than just fielding a team in New York to be able to rally a fan base to support the club.
“We know well the rules of MLS, and we think we are able to build a winning team within these rules,” Soriano said. “We’re going to make extensive use of our expertise, our knowledge, our people. We have very high caliber people at Manchester City that have been very successful at building winning teams.
“We will use resources like our extensive scouting network, not just in Europe or England, but in Latin America.
Added Soriano: “I have the self-confidence of doing this before, being able to build at Barcelona a winning team that is also sustainable, and follows the rules. We are fully confident.
Soriano also said that he believed that at some point there will be Manchester City players who may come to MLS to play in New York on-loan, but it would only happen “naturally” and “organically.”
Now that Garber has achieved his goal to get a second MLS club in New York, the league will take a step back and wait a little while before expanding beyond 20 teams. Orlando had been thought of as a possibility and there is a chance that Miami and Atlanta can get into the mix too.
“Right now we’re just going to take a deep breath,” Garber said. “Right now we’re very focused with getting NYCFC up and launched, and in the time to come we’ll figure out what comes next for us.”
Soriano and his staff at Manchester City will now have to spend the next 18 months building a fan base, whether it’s taking fans from the New York Red Bulls or converting others that either don’t support a club or only support a club abroad.
“There are passionate fans in the U.S. looking for high quality football,” Soriano said. “We believe there is an opportunity to build a team here (in New York), and to deliver high quality football to the fans here.
“We will be engaging with the soccer community here to understand how we can represent the them.”