It's a dream come true for New York City soccer fans who have faithfully waited for a team to call their own, especially in East Harlem -- a neighborhood where the seed was planted for a professional club three years ago and hopefully, a future generation of American soccer stars.
Tuesday, the city got its team -- New York City FC, which will join Major League Soccer for the 2015 season. Wednesday, the club, which still has to choose its team colors and logo, introduced the man who will put the club together -- former U.S. national team captain Claudio Reyna.
East Harlem's PS 72 was the backdrop for Reyna's introduction as director of football for the club, which was formed through a partnership between the New York Yankees, Manchester City FC of the English Premier League, and the Abu Dhabi United Group.
"This is exactly what we need," said Eugenio Ramirez, 38, whose two sons are rising stars of the PS 72 soccer program in East Harlem, where Manchester City FC installed a rooftop field and started a soccer program for about 500 kids in 2010.
"We have been watching and waiting and waiting and now it will happen. This opens up the possibility for my sons. We have a team now. And what father doesn't want their child to play professionally for their home team?" Ramirez asked rhetorically. "Soccer has changed their lives."
For the past three years, the Manchester City FC has nurtured the interests of children across the city with its soccer program. The British club's efforts have led to a citywide championship cup that includes about a dozen public schools.
About a dozen grade school students who play in the league attended the news conference and kicked soccer balls with members of the Manchester FC. That team, which finished second in the English Premier League season that just ended, is in town for a friendly match with league rival Chelsea FC on Saturday at Yankee Stadium.
"This is amazing," said Edgar Tamaitl, 10, a fourth-grader at PS 72 who was one of the lucky students who got a chance to kick, head butt and strike goals with several starters on the Manchester City club. "I'm excited. I like to play sports and soccer is my favorite. It's amazing."
With each strike between the goal posts, the PS 72 players yelled "Ole," the international rallying cry for soccer fans.
"It's great," said Alija Radoncic, 9, a fourth-grader at the school. "I feel excited that I got to meet" the team.
Manchester FC defender Pablo Zabaleta, who was volleying with the kids, said later, "I came here three years ago and to see the kids excited today opens up the dream and hope that they too can play professionally. This is great for New York."