A storm is brewing in New York City and it’s not Hurricane Sandy coming round for another swing. The city that never sleeps is about to be hit by another storm after the MLS revealed it is looking into opening up another franchise in New York. Competition is heating up in the city to become the second MLS team to represent the Big Apple, along side the New York Red Bulls. Prospective owners from across the US, Europe and Asia have expressed an interest as the MLS looks to expand its existing offering. The league, which has been in operation now since 1993, has progressively grown in stature over the past decade, now becoming one of the most watched leagues in the world. With attendances on the rise, star players arriving like Thierry Henry and Robbie Keane, US soccer growing as a core sport and advertiser interest increasing, the prospect of owning the 20th franchise in the league is looking more and more appealing by the day. For the owners of two of the wealthiest clubs in the world, Manchester City and PSG, it’s a mouth-watering opportunity to extend their brands to a yet untapped market. Both owners, Sheikh Mansour bin Zayed Al Nayhan (Manchester City) and Nasser Al Khelaifi (PSG) have engaged with MLS representatives about purchasing the place for a potential new team. At a cost of a mere $100 million, it would be a drop in the ocean for the two billionaires.
One team hoping to upset them and grab the place is the New York Cosmos. As of next year, the Cosmos will be back playing in the North American Soccer League, one division below the MSL but have aspirations to eventually return to American soccer’s top table. The Cosmos, who set the NASL alight back in the late 70’s/early 80’s , have risen from the ashes of their former self. The story of the New York Cosmos, founded in 1971, was brilliantly captured in the book ” Once in a lifetime “ by Gavin Newsham (also now a motion picture), is a fascinating one. Funded by Warner Communications President Steve Ross, the Cosmos built a dream team of the world’s best player’s like Brazilian forward Pelé, Italian striker Giorgio Chinaglia and the West German sweeper Franz Beckenbauer, attracting them to New York with high wages and the glitz and glamour of New York in the 1970’s. The franchise took off and dominated the league over the next 10 years before financial mistakes, player greed and lack of coordination on the part of the NASL eventually led to the demise of the league. After the league folded, the Cosmos brand lived on in youth teams until it was purchased by former Tottenham Hotspur vice chairman Paul Kemsley with the long-term vision of resurrecting the team. He onboarded a host of successful businessmen and football icons such as Eric Cantona as Director of Soccer, former US internationalist Cobi Jones (Associate Director of Soccer) and of course Pele as Honorary President to help run the new club. They have secured their place back in the US soccer setup but the holy grail is the MLS so the franchise opportunity comes at a perfect time.
The MLS remained tight-lipped on where the franchise would be based for a long time before revealing that New York had been chosen, piping cities like San Diego, Detroit, Baltimore and Las Vegas to the post. All had expressed an interest in becoming the latest US city to host a team but were eventually disappointed. After chosing New York, MLS commissioner Don Garber announced that the focus for the MLS was only securing the land to build the new stadium, not on who would be the potential owner.
“We want to ensure that when this project is complete that we have the perfect site for a stadium. We’ll take the time — as long as it takes — to ensure we have the right site. That’s how important the second New York team-project is. When the stadium’s done, there’ll be no shortage of owners who will line up and want to pay $100 million for our 20th team in New York,” – MLS commissioner Don Garber
On June 27th this year. plans to build a new soccer-specific stadium in Queens, New York were made public by the MLS. The new stadium would have a seating capacity of 20,000–25,000 and be located near the USTA Billie Jean King National Tennis Center in Flushing Meadows. Now that the land is secured, the real race for the new owners begins. With the bidding process under way, a decision from the MLS is expected some time next year, but as yet no indication has been given around the favourite to win that race. Whether it be Man City, PSG or the Cosmos, football fans in New York are bracing themselves for the addition of yet another sporting franchise.