Major League Soccer Commissioner Don Garber has long coveted a MLS team in New York City proper, and it appears he is one huge step closer to making this a reality. As reported in the New York Post on Monday morning, the league is close to finalizing a deal with New York City to place a $300 Million stadium in Flushing Meadow Park, in the borough of Queens near the Mets' Citi Field and the Billie Jean King National Tennis Center.
For comparison, the next closest most expensive soccer-specific stadium in MLS is Sporting Kansas City's LIVESTRONG Sporting Park, which cost around $207 million and the other NYC-area team, the New York Red Bulls, whose Red Bull Arena cost $213 million (in 2012 dollars). Once the deal is finalized there apparently will still be some government hoops to jump through as the stadium site will occupy approximately nine acres of parkland and those departments will need to sign off, but one would assume these wheels are already in motion with such a large amount of cash at stake. As part of the stadium site, the league is including nine soccer fields for public use, a way to pay the city back for taking park land for private use, while the state government will replace the city's lost land.
As for what team will live in this stadium, the leading candidate is the New York Cosmos - arguably, the most famous brand name in American soccer. The franchise from the original NASL played from 1971 to 1984 and its roster included notable players like Shep Messing, Franz Beckenbauer, and of course, Pele.
In 2009, the Cosmos brand was resurrected with the original long term goal of joining MLS. Ownership changes ensued and the brand was turned over to a new group that unveiled plans last month to finally field a team for the 2013 season, albeit in the new NASL (now the second division league). With the Queens stadium unlikely to open until 2014, it would give the Cosmos a chance to get a head start on their expansion season and further continue the marketing blitz on the New York market.
But what about the Red Bulls, one of the leagues' founding clubs (as the NY/NJ MetroStars)? Well, the new stadium will still be about a 90 minute train ride away from Red Bull Arena in Harrison, New Jersey. Traditionally, soccer has thrived on battles from local derbies and while the Red Bulls may lose the more casual fan who now might not need to travel as far to see MLS, it may embolden those left and give the club a fierce rival. With the roster that the Red Bulls have, featuring names like Sebastian Le Toux, Thierry Henry and new acquisition Tim Cahill, they certainly seem like they have no plans to play second fiddle to another club in the area in the immediate future.
The merits of having two teams in another American city has been debated by U.S. soccer fans in the past few years. The heat of the LA Superclassico between the Galaxy and Chivas USA (who both share the Home Depot Center) has died off in recent years with the Goats inability to sustain competitive teams. New York is a chance for the league to prove the detractors wrong and if Don Garber and his team are right, fans could see a world-class rivalry.
Photo attributed to Beyond My Ken