By Paul Kennedy
The MLS expansion race looks like it is approaching the finish line, and its 20th club will likely be ...
New York -- the league's top choice all along.
Said New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg in remarks at a MLB All-Star Game press conference on Wednesday, “Hopefully, we’re getting close to announcing a new soccer stadium here in Flushing Meadow Park.”
Speaking to reporters in Toronto, where he attended a business forum Wednesday for Canadian sponsors, MLS Commissioner Don Garber first said the league hoped to have an announcement in 3-4 weeks, then took back his remarks and said 4-6 weeks.
MLS's "focus" on New York was confirmed by MLS executive vice president of communications Dan Courtemanche, who later tweeted that "Focus for the 20th team is an expansion team in NYC. Orlando, Atlanta, Miami & others could be post 20."
Wednesday's remarks from Bloomberg and Garber came two days after a forum of New York mayoral candidates to succeed Bloomberg at which none of the nine candidates would say they were "solidly" for or against the stadium.
The biggest concern about the 25,000-seat stadium project appears to be that local citizens don't trust MLS to replace the 13 acres of land at Flushing Meadows Corona Park needed to build the stadium with park space elsewhere.
Asked about his ambivalence, Comptroller John Liu said:
"When they talk about alienating parkland for a stadium, they always make promises of making sure that the parkland is restored in another different park in the borough or in the city. Unfortunately, under this administration, we have seen a couple of other stadiums that have been built, and the parks facilities and spaces not being made available until the public, until a huge amount of public pressure was put to bear on the administration. So, there's a credibility factor here. And I certainly, in the case of the Major League Soccer stadium that's being proposed, and I do believe the administration is pushing behind the scenes, I do not think overall it's a good idea because they haven't shown us exactly where they want to restore the parkland."
ORLANDO PUSH. The latest expansion news came the same day Orlando City -- which has been eyeing the 20th MLS slot -- launched a feverish p.r. blitz to get soccer fans to ask their elected representatives for support of House Bill No. 219 and Senate Bill No. 306 in the Florida legislature to amend a Florida law to include MLS among leagues that get Florida sales tax rebates.
"We really want to get this bill moving," Orlando City President Phil Rawlins told WFTV.com. "It's stalled in the House of Representatives."
Orlando has bought land in a downtown area to build a soccer stadium. USL PRO's Orlando City set a club regular-season record with a crowd of more than 9,000 Friday at the Florida Citrus Bowl and it expects another big crowd Saturday against Dayton, having already sold out two sections.
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