[MLS EXPANSION: New York] MLS already has one team -- the New York Red Bulls -- in the New York metropolitan area, but MLS Commissioner Don Garber says the league needs a second New York team -- in one of the five boroughs -- to break through the clutter of the New York sports market.
"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 Monday telephone conference call with reporters.
Garber's comments come after Jerome de Bontin, the new general manager of the Red Bulls, who are based in New Jersey, recently said adding a second New York team might be premature.
"No team has a right to block an expansion team in a new market," Garber said. “I’m not at all concerned about Jerome’s point of view. It’s just part of being new. We have full support of the Red Bull owners. We've had it for many years."
Garber says MLS is at "the finish line" in talks with New York City officials on a deal to acquire land to build a stadium in the Flushing Meadows-Corona Park section of Queens that would become home for the league’s 20th team.
MLS President Mark Abbott recently called Flushing Meadows-Corona Park "probably the most diverse community not just in New York City, not just the country, but arguably the world."
The soccer stadium is one of a handful of projects on a special list Mayor Michael Bloomberg's office is hoping to push through before his term ends in 14 months, to New York Post recently reported.
Garber added that many New Yorkers love soccer.
"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."
He said the goal was to have a team in New York in 2016 but lots of details needed to be worked out before construction on a soccer stadium could begin.
"I do believe that we will resolve that shortly," he said. "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."
On other expansion topics ...
-- Garber rebutted talks of David Beckham becoming an owner of an MLS club is New York.
"Anything’s a possibility other than his right to exercise that option in New York," he said. "So there is a possibility for him to work with league office to find ways to transfer that option into an opportunity in LA. It's way too premature to talk about that or even speculate about what that would look like. But that opportunity does exist if it meets the approval of the league … David holds the option and the LA Galaxy would have to be part of that discussion." (AEG, which owns the Galaxy, is up for sale.)
-- Garber said MLS needed to move into the South, where Miami, Orlando and Atlanta have been mentioned as possibilities.
"It isn’t a matter of if," he said. "It’s a matter of when. And it’s probably a matter of where. We continue to believe Florida needs an MLS team. At some point, I think, it would make sense for a team in Miami. I don’t know when that is; it’s certainly not now. That market continues to change, continues to evolve demographically ... and continues to be an intriguing market for us. We have a spent a lot of time with [USL Orlando City owner] Phil Rawlins. I would call him a friend of the league. We are very impressed with what he is doing. I have spent time with Phil and his ownership group and met with [Orlando officials] with what might happen with the football stadium but also with potential plans for a soccer stadium.