Major League Soccer Scouts New York for Team to Rival Red Bulls

Major League Soccer is in “exploratory” discussions with New York City officials to find a home for a new team in Flushing Meadows Corona Park in Queens, according to a league official.

MLS has looked at 20 sites in New York’s five boroughs, including Pier 40 on Manhattan’s West Side and Randall’s Island, said Dan Courtemanche, executive vice president of communications. Several ownership groups are interested in bidding on a franchise, he said, declining to name them.

League officials have been trying for three years to bring a team to New York to create a rivalry with the New York Red Bulls, said Courtemanche. Owned by Austrian energy-drink company Red Bull GmbH, the team plays in a 25,189-seat, stadium in Harrison, New Jersey, a 20-minute train ride from Wall Street.

“Our focus is securing a second team for the New York market,” Courtemanche said in a telephone interview. “We’re thrilled about the prospect of being in Queens and bringing the world’s sport to the world’s park, Flushing Meadows.”

The last professional soccer team to play in the city was the New York Cosmos of the North American Soccer League, which popularized the game in the U.S. by signing international stars such as Pele and Franz Beckenbauer. The Cosmos, founded in 1971, played home games in three venues, last playing in 1976 at the old Yankee Stadium, before moving to Giants Stadium in East Rutherford, New Jersey.

The New York Post reported today that MLS was nearing a deal with city and state officials for a $300 million, 25,000-seat stadium in Flushing Meadows, citing unidentified officials.

World’s Fair

Courtemanche declined to comment on the league’s conversations with government officials and said officials didn’t have a timeline for new facility, which he said would be privately financed. The stadium would be surrounded by fields for recreational use, he said.

The site of two World’s Fairs in the 20th century, the 1,255-acre park is the largest in Queens. It holds Citi Field, home of the New York Mets baseball team, and the site of the U.S. Open tennis tournament.

The park is bordered by the neighborhood of Corona, where Mexicans, Ecuadoreans, Chileans and other Latinos make it one of New York’s most passionate soccer fan bases.

“There’s enormous support for a soccer stadium from what we can tell from elected officials and from local officials in the area,” said Mayor Michael Bloomberg, following a Manhattan news conference today. “In Queens, in particular, soccer is a very big game.”

New Parkland

To build the stadium in Flushing Meadows, the state would have to create new parkland of roughly the same size and location to replace the old, Bloomberg said.

“We support bringing major league soccer to New York and are working with MLS to make that a reality,” said Rich Azzopardi, a spokesman for Governor Andrew Cuomo, in a telephone interview.

Queens Borough President Helen Marshall also didn’t immediately return a call seeking comment.

Once a stadium location is set, MLS will select an ownership group, said Courtemanche said. The new owners would have to commit to build a new stadium and pay a franchise fee.

The last team to join the MLS, the Montreal Impact, which joined this year, paid a $40 million franchise fee, Courtemanche said. A franchise fee hasn’t been set for a second New York-area team, he said.

The mayor is founder and majority owner of Bloomberg News parent Bloomberg LP.

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