With nine major pro franchises carving up the sports dollar in the New York metropolitan area, Major League Soccer's New York Red Bulls have been relegated to the end of the line in terms of media attention.
But MLS president Mark Abbott Thursday said the league believes New York is a soccer market and is committed to putting the next expansion franchise in Queens if a deal can be reached to build a soccer-only stadium.
"We are very interested in having a second team in New York," said Abbott, who met with The Associated Press Sports Editors organization. "The market is large enough and diverse enough to support two teams. Geographically, we think a team on the New York side could prosper, and the Red Bulls agree it could help them."
The Red Bulls are based in Harrison, N.J., where their one-year old Red Bull Arena glistens at the edge of downtown Newark. Even that 20,000-seat palace, which evokes the feel of European soccer stadiums, has been overshadowed by recent openings of new Yankee Stadium, Citi Field and nearby New Meadowlands Stadium. But Red Bull Arena might have the toughest ticket around on July 27 when the MLS All-Stars play Manchester United of the English Premier League.
Last year's All-Star Game against ManU drew 70,000 fans to Houston's Reliant Stadium, yet Abbott said no thought was given to playing at New Meadowlands Stadium, where it could draw three times as many fans.
"In this market where there are soccer fans who have not yet engaged with the team and so many influential people in the sports media and corporate business, to bring them out to Red Bull Arena and experience that game was just a great opportunity we could never forego. The impact will be significant. A lot of people who hadn't focused on the Red Bulls and that arena will do so this summer."
Abbott said Queens is "ideal" for a similar arena to fuel a local rivalry. New York City officials have been supportive, but public financing hasn't been discussed. Mets owners Fred and Jeff Wilpon are talking to MLS despite their financial problems, but British businessman Paul Kemsley, who owns the old New York Cosmos' brand name, is a more likely bidder.
"That's a very serious and credible effort they've put together," Abbott said. "They're not the only people we're talking to, but they've done a lot of smart things. But the key is the stadium."