By FRANCO PANIZO
It is no secret that MLS wants a second team in the New York area, and the chances of that happening appear more likely than ever. MLS officials publicly discussed proposed plans earlier this week to have a soccer-specific stadium constructed for the 20th team in the league in the New York City borough of Queens in the coming years.
As strong as the MLS push is for a second New York team has become, that hasn’t discouraged at least one other city from continuing their quest to grab that precious 20th MLS expansion slot.
USL Pro club Orlando City SC also had meetings with local media earlier this week to discuss the construction of their own potential soccer-specific stadium, with team president Phil Rawlins going over a detailed economic impact study that Orlando City had hired a research firm to do. More importantly, Rawlins expressed the need for local officials to act fast so as to become the 20th or 21st team in MLS and avoid missing out on receiving one of the two southeast franchises the league is set to add in the coming years. Rawlins even went as far as saying that MLS officials, a group that visited Orlando in March, have basically promised the team an MLS franchise so long as a stadium is built.
That, however, does not coincide with what MLS president Mark Abbott said to reporters this week in Manhattan when talking about the proposed 25,000-seat, $300 million New York stadium and the plans to begin construction for it at Flushing Meadows-Corona Park by 2014.
“This is our priority in terms of our next expansion, which will be our 20th team,” said Abbott. “We haven’t made a determination about the timeline for expansion beyond that.”
Whether Rawlins is privy to information the public does not yet know about expansion or if he was just trying to put pressure on officials to get a plan for a SSS complete, his comments are sure to raise a few eyebrows. MLS has said in the past that they do not intend on stopping at 20 teams in the league, but they have been adamant about taking a break after adding the next expansion club so as to have some stability within the league.
New York is obviously the favorite to land the expansion team given the size of the market, the rivalry the team would instantly create with the New Jersey-based New York Red Bulls, the star power they could draw in order to tap into the huge soccer fanbase in NYC, and the eyeballs they would attract from all across the world.
But there are still hurdles for a potential second New York team to overcome and while MLS wants to name an ownership group in 2013, getting a deal in place for stadium construction to begin a year later is anything but certain.
Orlando City have their own issues to deal with, namely zeroing in on the land they want to build their proposed 20,000-seat, $96.5 million stadium on (there are two rumored sites) and getting permission to do so.
Working in Orlando’s favor is Major League Soccer’s need for a presence in the Southeast, and the lack of another strong expansion candidate in the region.
There are a number of cities that have also been linked to potential bids for an MLS team, from St. Louis to San Diego, but at the moment two things are clear. A second New York team is the preference of MLS for team 20, and Orlando has emerged as a a leading contender if the bid for a second New York team falls short.
What do you think of these developments? Do you see New York and Orlando both getting teams within the next few years? What do you think of New York being the favorite to land the 20th MLS club? Prefer to see that spot go to a team in the southeast?
Share your thoughts below.