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May 21, 2013

Man City buy into MLS

Manchester City and the New York Yankees have teamed up to create a club that will become the 20th member of the MLS.

The joint venture between the 2012 Premier League champions and the 27-time winners of baseball's World Series will be named New York City Football Club (NYCFC) and is likely to join Major League Soccer in 2015.

New York already has one MLS franchise but the Red Bulls play in New Jersey whereas NYCFC intend to find a home in New York itself. Discussions have begun about building a stadium in Flushing Meadows in Queens.

New York City FC expect to play in an interim home until a permanent stadium is built. The owners are committed to constructing a stadium and will take up negotiations with the city. Whether their focus now shifts from the 13-acre plot of the Flushing Meadows-Corona Park in Queens remains to be seen. Ferran Soriano explained: "We are very aware of the Queens negotiation. This is not about finding a stadium. This is about finding a home that will be successful from a commercial, and soccer perspective as well as a community perspective."

While City's interest in acquiring an MLS team has long been rumoured, the minority ownership position taken by Yankees has come as a surprise. According to Yankees president Randy Levine, the relationship was forged through their concessions and marketing company, Legends Management, which operates at the Etihad. "We are the New York Yankees, we require special people to partner with and we learned that Manchester City are just that."

The Yankees expect to be active participants in operations. As Levine explained, "from The Boss George Steinbrenner on down, we have been big soccer fans in this organization." Though the baseball team had a joint marketing agreement with Manchester United as recently as 2009, it is City they will formally partner with. "They know how to run a soccer club, we know our way around New York it is a win-win."

• Bennett: Man City, N.Y. Yankees team up to own 20th MLS club
• Carlisle on stadium confusion

City will be the new club's majority owners. Their position has been taken up by the club itself, not Abu Dhabi owner Sheik Mansour as had been widely reported. It stands as a powerful indicator that in the ongoing football arms race, the thirst for unconventional revenue streams and creative brand exposure will compel major teams to execute ever bolder global strategies.

MLS commissioner Don Garber said: "We proudly welcome two of the most prestigious professional global sports organizations to Major League Soccer.

"This is a transformational development that will elevate the league to new heights in this country. The New York area is home to more than 19 million people, and we look forward to an intense crosstown rivalry between New York City Football Club and the New York Red Bulls that will captivate this great city."

City CEO Ferran Soriano said: "New York is a legendary sports town, as well as a thriving global city with a rapidly expanding soccer fanbase.

"We are thrilled to contribute to the energy and growth of New York City Soccer. In the Yankees, we have found the absolute best partner for developing a world-class sports organization and a winning team that will carry the New York City Football Club name with pride."

Soriano is expected to announce appointments for key positions in NYCFC in the next few weeks while Yankees president Randy Levine will also be heavily involved.

Yankees owner Hal Steinbrenner added: "We are pleased to be associated with this major move by MLS to increase its presence in the New York market and to enhance the opportunity for New York soccer fans to enjoy high-level play in their own city.

"We look forward to the opportunity to work with Manchester City to create something very special for the soccer fans of New York - and to bringing another terrific team to this city for all sports fans to enjoy."

City, who will be in New York for the third time in four years later this week, are facing Chelsea at Yankee Stadium on May 25.

New York mayor Michael Bloomberg added: "Soccer is one of the world's most exciting and popular sports, and it should be played on the world's biggest stage - in New York City.

"New Yorkers are the greatest sports fans in the world, and they will welcome a Major League Soccer franchise with the full-throated and loyal support they are famous for. Manchester City has a great reputation for both winning teams and serious community investment, and that will help them fit in well with the excellent leadership of New York City's other professional sports teams.

"Increasingly, sports events and activities - from the NHL playoffs to the MLB All-Star game to the SuperBowl - are spurring economic growth, as our investments in new arenas and infrastructure are paying off."

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