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City owners set for MLS franchise

The head of the owners of Manchester City is reported to be close to buying the franchise for a second MLS team in New York, the New York Times has reported.

Sheikh Mansour bin Zayed al-Nahyan, part of the Abu Dhabi royal family, whose private investment group owns City, is ready to invest a $100 million "expansion fee" to create the 20th MLS team. It will be based in Queens, may be called New York City FC and could begin playing in 2016.

The paper reported that a deal for the construction of a privately-funded $340 million stadium in Flushing Meadows-Corona Park was close, and an announcement on the new franchise could be made prior to May 25, when City face Premier League rivals Chelsea in a New York friendly.

Last week, the New York mayor, Michael Bloomberg, told reporters: "Hopefully, we're getting close to announcing a new soccer stadium here in Flushing Meadows Park."

Recently-deposed Premier League champions City will be making a third visit to the US in four years. Their City in the Community programme has seen pitches built across the country, including in Manhattan, in recent years.

Despite the franchise deal reportedly being at an advanced stage, the New York Times also reported that hurdles remain.

These include concerns over park space being lost to the stadium, and the need to gain planning approval for it.

City officials recently confirmed that they were in "active discussions" with the MLS about the proposals.

Stefan Szymanski, a professor of sports management at the University of Michigan, was quoted in the New York Times report as saying: "These are long-term investors - the Warren Buffetts of the Middle East.

"It almost doesn't matter what plays inside the stadium. It's the location, the city, that indicates it's a good investment."

Manchester City have not commented on the report.

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