Commissioner Don Garber expressed hope on Thursday that Major League Soccer will be prepared to announce "in four to six weeks" that it has finalized plans with New York City to build a 25,000-seat stadium in Flushing Meadow Park for a 20th league franchise, envisioned as a local rival for the New Jersey-based Red Bulls.
The facility, which will cost $320 million to $340 million, would be financed by a yet-to-be named ownership group, though Garber made it clear that the deal is separate from the reincarnated New York Cosmos and the Cosmos' proposal for a 25,000-seat stadium adjacent to Belmont Park Race Track on the Nassau-Queens border.
During a 90-minute session with Associated Press sports editors at the league's Manhattan offices, Garber acknowledged earlier talks with the Cosmos about becoming an expansion MLS team, but said that "right now, there is nothing" with the Cosmos.
In January, the Cosmos declared their intention to construct a $400-million soccer-specific stadium and their intention to play in the second-tier North American Soccer League, but city approval to build instead in Flushing would appear to work against the Cosmos' stadium possibilities. (While awaiting a permanent home, the Cosmos said they will begin NASL competition at Hofstra University in August.)
The Cosmos "made the determination," Garber said, "that being part of this league was not something they were interested in doing at this point," facing the MLS $100-million franchise fee and what Garber called "a real partnership" in which there are restrictions on player signings, salaries and licensing.
Given the four-to-six week announcement target, the MLS appears to have narrowed potential ownership to a single candidate for its 20th franchise. And there is an urgency, Garber said, to finalize a lease to build in Flushing's public park before Mayor Michael Bloomberg, a booster of the MLS stadium plan, leaves office at the end of this year.
At a forum of nine potential mayoral candidates earlier this week, none of the nine would commit to either supporting or opposing the Flushing stadium.
"The 20th team in New York," said Garber, "is a big priority for us. If we get this done, it will be in Flushing Meadow Park. There is no Plan B. There is Plan A and only Plan A. There is no question, if we're able to finalize it, it will be great for the league and great for the Red Bulls."