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MLS Takes Major Step in Adding Second NY Team

Mark it on your calendar: March 21, 2013.  The day the New York City Football Club was born and Major League Soccer made an aggressive push to jump into the sporting spotlight.

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MLS Logo (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The MLS announced on Tuesday that the league will add a 20th team, which will play in New York City and will be owned by sports powerhouses the Manchester City Football Club and the New York Yankees.

“Yesterday we were very proud to announce something very real,” Ferran Soriano, CEO of Manchester City Football Club, said during a press conference on Wednesday. “We are giving birth to a new football club. New York Football Club… We are thrilled to be in New York. The capital of the world and we found in the MLS one of the best managed leagues in the world.”

A glowing review from man who is part of one of the most well known sports franchises in the world, and whose owner Sheikh Mansour bin Zayed al Nahyan has a lot of money to pump into the new team.

The surprise here wasn’t the involvement of Manchester City. In fact it had widely been known that they were vying to be a part of the MLS’s new club. But the surprise was the New York Yankees. Though the two are no strangers. They have been in business before due to their venture, Legends Hospitality.

“They understand soccer,” Yankees President Randy Levine told Newsday. “They know how to put championship teams together in soccer. We know New York City. We have been doing business here for a long time. We know how things work. So, we’re going to help them. We know how to build championship teams. So, it’s a great combination.”

There is no doubt that the ownership will spend money to put a competitive team on the field once they begin play in 2015, but there are a few challenges ahead for the new club.

The most pressing being where New York City FC will play in 2015.

Opposition to a new football stadium in Flushing Meadows Corona Park in Queens has begun to emerge and in the press release sent out on Tuesday the club said they “will continue to review other potential sites” for a venue. They also said they would play the 2015 season in an interim home.

After Wednesday’s press conference Claudio Reyna, the team’s new Director of Football, said that they have had preliminary discussions with both Yankee Stadium and Citi Field about being a temporary home for New York City FC.

Both facilities have played host to soccer. AC Milan and Manchester United played a friendly last year, and will host two matches in the coming weeks, including one which will feature Manchester City on Saturday. Citi Field has had the Ecuadorian National Team play twice in Queens and Israel and Honduras will play there on June 2.

Another challenge: Can New York support two Soccer teams? For that matter, three teams if you count relaunch of the New York Cosmos in the NASL.

The MLS already has the Red Bulls in the New York Metro area and, despite having one of the nicest facilities in the league, they have not drawn well at the gate. It wasn’t until 2007 when David Beckham and the Los Angeles Galaxy that the team saw upwards of 60,000 fans show up for a game at their then home, Giants Stadium.

This season the Red Bulls have averaged 17,554 fans at their home games. Red Bull Arena holds 25,189 people.

But they have also had the disadvantage of playing outside of New York. For New York City FC playing inside the city limits will help draw fans to wherever they end up playing. The Brooklyn Nets are the best example of just how much location matters in the New York media market and being even just a few miles inside or outside of the city means a whole lot.

“We want to be New York and we want to as New Yorkers as we can. We want to have a permanent presence here,” Soriano said.

New York City FC has a lot of work ahead of them if they want to have a presence in a market that has the Yankees, Mets, Jets, Giants, Knicks, Nets, Islanders and Rangers.

By bringing in such a star studded ownership they have made a splash and have put the MLS in the spotlight, for the past two days. But to stay there they will need to win once they start playing in 2015.

Soccer can work in New York. It has. Fans have flocked to international contests at Yankee Stadium and Citi Field, as well as at MetLife Stadium.

The expansion of a second New York team is a big step for the MLS, but one, if successful, that could pay major dividends for the a league that is not usually on the mind of New York sports fans.

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