NEW YORK // Major League Soccer (MLS) took a major step toward its goal of becoming one of the top football leagues in the world over the next decade, as Manchester City and the New York Yankees joined forces to form the league's 20th club.
The New York City Football Club (NYCFC), which will join the league in 2015, will be the league’s first to be based in the five boroughs of the city, forming what the league hopes to be an “intense rivalry” with the New Jersey-based New York Red Bulls that will push the league’s growth further.
“This is a transformational moment for soccer in the US and MLS as we welcome our 20th club,” the league commissioner Don Garber said. “It is a great step for us on our path to try and become one of the top leagues in the world by 2022.
“And to do it in New York City has been a priority for us since the league was founded in 1996. It provides us with a rivalry, most importantly in the city with the Red Bulls, and rivalries drive the success of football around the world. We hope that same spectacle and intense rivalry is created here.”
Manchester City, owned by Sheikh Mansour bin Zayed, will be the majority owner of the club, while the Yankees, a Major League Baseball club with 27 world titles, will be investors and active members of the ownership group.
While the deal potentially has myriad ramifications for both the Yankees and Manchester City in new markets, and the sport itself in the US, the primary purpose, both sides insisted, was to build a successful club in a growing league.
“There will be a lot of synergies [between us],” said Randy Levine, the Yankees president. “We know how to operate a franchise here, how to market, how to gain sponsors and I am sure there will be opportunities with Manchester City sponsors.
“But Manchester City has the same philosophy: this is about the sport, about putting [together] a championship quality soccer team for the fans of New York.”
Ferran Soriano, the Manchester City chief executive, will oversee the process of filling top NYCFC leadership positions in the weeks to come.
Soriano acknowledged the possibility that players from Manchester City may eventually come to play here, potentially as part of a kind of feeder-relationship between the clubs.
“We’re going to make extensive use of our expertise, our knowledge, our people,” Soriano said. “We have very high-calibre people in Manchester who have been very successful in building winning teams. We will use resources like our extensive scouting network not only in Europe, but in Latin America, which is a good source of talented players.
“It might happen [that Manchester City players come here on loan]. I think it will happen naturally, organically but this is not the purpose of this initiative.
“The purpose here is to build a team here in New York and that team will be served with players from all over the world. This is going to be an independent team in the US for New Yorkers that love football.”
One of the first orders of business for NYCFC will be to find a home in the city. Discussions are underway to have a stadium in Flushing Meadows Corona Park in Queens and Levine acknowledged the possibility of Yankees Stadium – where City will face Chelsea in a friendly on Saturday – being used in the interim.
“At this point it is premature to comment on any interim venues,” Garber said. “We’ve got work to do to ensure we have the right temporary facility for them to hit the ground running in 2015.
“The league has been engaged in this process and we’ve worked with New York city to reach an agreement on Flushing Meadows Park. The NYCFC ownership group will look at what we’ve been able to present to them and whether that site makes sense.”
Soriano stressed that this was not a search for a stadium as much as a home.
“We are well aware of the conversation of a potential stadium in Flushing Meadows and we are looking forward to continue that but this is not only about finding a place to build a stadium,” he said.
“This is about finding a home. We want this team to have a home and that means, first and foremost, to listen to people and to the community to ensure whatever we build is ensured by the community.
“The stadium has to be success from a commercial perspective but also from a community perspective. We will look at this stadium but also other options to build our home.”
The announcement comes as City plays Premier League rivals Chelsea in a friendly at Yankee Stadium on Saturday.