Apr 29, 2013, 8:30 AM EDT
Brace yourselves. A soccer whirlwind could be about to hit New York City.
Rumors surrounding the possible ownership group of MLS’ 20th franchise have been circling all weekend, after MLS Commissioner Don Garber spoke recently of his hopes to have an announcement in “the next 4-6 weeks” on an expansion franchise in Queens, NYC.
Turns out Manchester City owner Sheikh Mansour bin Zayed al-Nahyan is the leading candidate to fund and back the league’s next franchise, with his investment group reportedly in final negotiations for NYC 2.
Reports across various outlets overnight have the member of the Abu Dhabi royal family stumping up the cash for an expansion franchise, and reveals his plans to spend plenty more as he aims for a new franchise named “New York City” to match the success of his EPL side.
But if the wealth of Abu Dhabi does land in Queens — Flushing Meadows Park to be exact, as plans are “hopefully getting close“ according to New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg — just how would MLS benefit?
First of all, the envious glare of world soccer would fixate on NYC. Without offense to the New York Red Bulls, Harrison, N.J. is not close to Manhattan, never will be and their fan base in Manhattan and Queens is nowhere near as large as it should be. MLS execs believe situating a team in Queens and NYC proper, will put bums on seats and bring in huge revenues via sponsorship, television and other avenues. The league, not just the NYC 2 franchise, would benefit hugely from that. Plus a city rival for the Red Bulls will be key.
Do I think it will work? Yes. 100 percent. Absolutely. But there are still plenty of stumbling blocks to get through yet. So let’s not get too ahead of ourselves.
But focusing on Sheik Mansour, he has turned Manchester City’s fortunes around by pumping billions into the stadium, infrastructure, academy and most importantly of all, the playing staff. The lure that comes with owning a successful sports franchise has begun to resonate more in recent years, with financial and royal leaders from the Middle East backing horse racing, soccer and other sports with huge financial clout.
Mansour will not stop until NYC 2 are successful off the field, have a global image that everyone admires and most importantly, have huge success on the soccer pitch.
The deal isn’t done yet. But with Garber announcing progress has been made and an announcement within the next six weeks.
Brace yourselves NYC. The city many refer to as “the capital of the world” is on the verge of getting the premiere soccer franchise fans (and MLS) have always dreamed of.
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