David Villa of NYCFC celebrates after scoring his second goal...

David Villa of NYCFC celebrates after scoring his second goal to give NYCFC a 2-1 lead at against Columbus Crew SC at Citi Field on Sunday, Oct. 22, 2017. Credit: Errol Anderson

Major League Soccer commissioner Don Garber said Thursday afternoon that the professional soccer team New York City FC continues to look at multiple New York City sites to build what Garber described as “the most expensive stadium ever done in MLS.”

“The club knows and ownership knows they need to get into a soccer stadium as quickly as possible,” said Garber, speaking to a group representing the Associated Press Sports Editors at MLS headquarters in Manhattan.

NYCFC submitted a bid to develop the state-owned land at Belmont that was awarded to the Islanders in December. Empire State Development, the state’s primary business development agency, said at the time that the Islanders’ Belmont proposal would generate more economic activity than NYCFC’s proposal.

“I wouldn’t say they lost out on Belmont,” Garber said Thursday. “I think they were not as focused on Belmont as the Islanders were.”

NYCFC officials acknowledged during the Belmont bidding process that Belmont was only one of several sites being considered. Fans of the soccer club — which is partially owned by the Yankees — were widely against the prospects of building a stadium at Belmont.

Garber said Thursday that ESD made the right call picking the Islanders over NYCFC.

“I would say for me being a New Yorker and having gone out to Belmont as a kid, the Islanders situation at Belmont is very positive for this region and is a good solution,” he said. “I think there are other solutions for NYCFC that would be better than Belmont. And I think the team recognizes it.”

NYCFC has played the majority of its home games at Yankee Stadium since it began play in 2015. Garber said Yankee Stadium is “located well” and “fans are committed to that team in that stadium for the time being.”

But he added that the club understands the need to develop its own home soon. After the Islanders were selected as the Belmont winner, NYCFC said in a statement, “We will continue to be very active in our pursuit of a new soccer-specific stadium.”

Newsday reported in September NYCFC, in addition to submitting a bid for Belmont, also has expressed interest in building a soccer-specific stadium in Harlem River Yards in South Bronx, another location near Yankee Stadium as well as in Flushing.

At Belmont, NYCFC proposed a 26,000-seat open-air stadium, 400,000 square feet of retail, a 5.2-acre community park and a 2-acre soccer facility. Its bid was made in conjunction with Related Companies, a Manhattan-based developer.

The New York Red Bulls, the other MLS franchise in the New York market and a rival for NYCFC, has a soccer-specific stadium in West Harrison, New Jersey. Minnesota United FC, an expansion team, will open a new soccer stadium in 2019, Allianz Field, and LAFC, the second MLS team in the Los Angeles market, officially opened its Banc of California Stadium this week. There are 18 soccer-specific stadiums this season and that number will increase to 21 next season.

With Jim Baumbach

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