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Nov 26, 2012

Garber: NYC stadium talks at 'finish line'

NEW YORK -- Major League Soccer Commissioner Don Garber says the league is at "the finish line" in negotiations with New York City to acquire land to build a stadium in Queens that would become home for the league's 20th team.

Garber says MLS hopes to have the team start play in 2016 at a 10-acre site in Flushing Meadows-Corona Park and spark a rivalry with the New York Red Bulls, who play at a 25,189-capacity stadium that opened in 2010 at Harrison, N.J.

"We believe that this second team in New York will help create an opportunity to break through the clutter in this market of almost a dozen professional sports teams," Garber said during a telephone conference call Monday.

"There are 13 million people in this city," he said, also including some of the suburban population. "Many of them love the game. We need to give them all an opportunity to stop for a moment and pay attention to Major League Soccer, to pay more attention to the Red Bulls, to pay attention to this 20th team and create very, very special moments for soccer in the New York metropolitan area."

After starting with 10 teams in 1996, expanding to 12 and then contracting to 10 in 2002, the league added a second Los Angeles team in 2004 with Chivas USA and launched its 19th this year in Montreal.

Garber said the Red Bulls do not have the right to block a second team in the market. New Red Bulls sporting director Jerome de Bontin told Fox this month that an additional team probably was premature.

"I'm not at all concerned about Jerome's point of view. I think it's just part of being new," he said. "We've had the full support of Red Bulls ownership."

Garber said possibilities for expansion beyond New York include Atlanta, Orlando, Miami and Minneapolis.

As for the two existing teams still hoping for new stadiums, Garber said: "I believe there is new momentum down in D.C. There seems to be a more focused approach, the New England Revolution are hoping for a downtown venue. "We are looking for public support up in that area because of just the cost of developing a project."

Garber said the New York market is the one area that David Beckham doesn't have the right to buy into. Beckham, who will play his final game for the Los Angeles Galaxy this weekend, has the right to purchase an expansion team as part of the contract he signed when he left Real Madrid and signed with the Galaxy in 2007.

An initial deal with the city is only one of several steps needed before stadium construction could start.

"There's a lot of work that needs to happen to finalize our agreement with New York City over our use of the land and our ability to lease that land to build a stadium," he said. "I do believe that we will resolve that shortly. I can't put any timetable on that, but we are at the finish line. Once we are there, we've got to go into a formal approval process that all developers have to go through in New York City. That will take some time. We need to reach an agreement with the city, with the local community and with the state of New York on replacing the land that we will be utilizing for the stadium."

In addition, MLS is negotiating with the Mets to use the parking lots adjacent to Citi Field.

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