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Yankees, Manchester City bring New York City FC to Major League Soccer

Major League Soccer's long-sought goal of having a team within the city limits of New York is finally coming true.

This story has been corrected. The Manchester City vs. Chelsea game in St. Louis is Thursday, not Wednesday.

Major League Soccer's long-sought goal of having a team within the city limits of New York is finally coming true.

The league announced Tuesday morning the creation of its 20th team, New York City FC. Expected to begin playing in 2015, the franchise will be jointly owned by English soccer powerhouse Manchester City and New York's most famous sports team, baseball's Yankees.

"This is a transformational development that will elevate the league to new heights in this country," MLS commissioner Don Garber said.

Garber's remark may sound like public relations hyperbole, but it may well turn out to be true. Although MLS has had a team in the New York area since its debut in 1996, the MetroStars-turned-Red Bulls have long struggled to build up a fan base.

That's in part because the team has failed to win even one trophy in its 18 years of existence. But it's also in part because fans across a wide swath of the New York region have not wanted to travel to northern New Jersey, where the team has always been based.

Both Giants Stadium and the new Red Bull Arena require a long trip from Brooklyn, Queens and Long Island. The same is true of densely-populated - and very wealthy - areas north of Manhattan, such as West Chester County, N.Y., and southern Connecticut.

New York City FC has its eye on building a soccer-specific stadium in Corona Park, Queens, N.Y., just south of the USTA National Tennis Center and the Mets' Citi Field. That will be a much more accessible location for fans who the Red Bulls have failed to attract.

Now the Red Bulls will be able to focus on northern New Jersey and Manhattan, two areas which have plenty of fans from which to build a base. If the team's corporate parent - world-renowned for its energy drink of the same name - gives its MLS team a proper marketing budget, there could be quite a battle for the hearts of Manhattan fans in particular.

At the very least, it shouldn't take long for City and the Red Bulls to build up a rivalry on the field. "The Gotham Derby" has already been floated as a potential moniker.

"Rivalries drive the success of soccer around the world," Garber said. "You've just got to look at what's going on in Manchester, or the [many] teams in London. We hope that the same spectacle will be created when the Red Bulls and New York City FC meet in New York and New Jersey."

City's arrival in 2015 happens to be the first year of the next round of MLS' TV rights deals, with neogitations set to begin this summer. MLS currently has U.S. deals with ESPN, NBC and Univision.

Garber said that the timing of the New York announcement "was not aligned with that per se - it was more coincidental, but clearly we think it will be positive for our negotiations."

Until City's stadium opens, the team will play in an interim venue. The New York Times reported that the team may start out playing at Yankee Stadium. Yankees president Randy Levine said that "we haven't made any decision, but it is a possibility."

MLS did confirm that Manchester City as an organization will be the majority owner of the team, with the Yankees owning a minority share.

City owner Sheik Mansour bin Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan's interest in buying into MLS is not new. Discussions have been ongoing for a few years, and it was reported in December that negotiations had reached the point of agreement on a $100 million expansion fee.

In late April, MLS commissioner Don Garber said talks over adding a new team in New York were at the point where he'd be able to make an announcement in four to six weeks. Though Garber did not give any details about potential owners, reported soon after Garber's remarks that Mansour was the leading candidate.

There was skepticism at the time over Garber's ability to deliver on that claim. Now he has done so - and at a very convenient time.

Manchester City is currently in the United States for a two-game exhibition series with fellow English power Chelsea. The first game is Thursday night in St. Louis, and the second will be Saturday at - perhaps not coincidentally - Yankee Stadium.

"We are enthusiastic believers in the development of soccer in the U.S., and we know that MLS is a very well-managed league," Manchester City CEO Ferran Soriano said. "We will work to deliver to the fans in New York very good, beautiful football."

Soriano acknowledged that there will be "plenty of synergies" between the two sides of the Atlantic Ocean. That could include having players from Manchester move to New York.

"It will happen naturally, organically, but this is not the purpose of this initiative," Soriano said. "The purpose here is to build a team in New York that will be able to compete and win in New York and in the U.S. The team will be stocked with players from all over the world."

On the whole, Soriano said, the New York club will be run independently of its Manchester parent.

"This is going to be an independent team in the U.S. for New Yorkers that love football," he said. "This is not a marketing gimmick, this is not a marketing construction."

Mansour was able to build up Manchester City's global profile by spending big on international stars. But New York City FC won't be able to do that because of MLS' salary cap.

Soriano knows how to build a succesful team within financial limits. From 2003 to 2008, he was a vice president at Spanish powerhouse Barcelona - a team renowned worldwide for developing talent from its own youth academy.

"I have experience from my time at Barcelona at building a team that is sustainable, and wins within the rules," he said. "We are building a team that will be financially sustainable, and we are investing here to be financially sustainable."

The Yankees' involvement presents a new, and very dramatic, twist in the plot.

MLS has been working for years to secure the aforementioned space in Queens for a new stadium. New York mayor Michael Bloomberg has been a staunch supporter of MLS' efforts, but Corona Park residents and some members of New York's city council have been skeptical.

Having the Yankees involved will give considerable heft to MLS' push to get a deal done.

Yankees president Randy Levine said that Manchester City will "be running all the soccer. We know our way around New York, how to get things done."

Nonetheless, Levine said, the Yankees have an interest in the sporting side of the operation.

"From 'The Boss,' George Steinbrenner, to [current Yankees managing general partner] Hal Steinbrenner, the family has been soccer fans for a long time," Levine said. "We only partner with qualtiy people, brands that we believe can stand up and belong with ours. Manchester City, no doubt, is one of those."

Back in 2001, the Yankees formed a partnership with Manchester United - city's crosstown rival. That turned into a now-expired licensing and broadcasting agreement in which the clubs sold each other's licensed goods and exchanged television programming.

The Yankees' YES Network has broadcast Arsenal games on a delayed basis since October 2010.

It wouldn't be a surprise if the YES Network becomes the television home of New York City FC. That would give MLS a presence on the most widely-carried regional sports network in the country.

If that happens, it would be a change from the Yankees' past public stance towards MLS. Levine had a sharp exchange with Garber in 2009 when Garber criticized poor attendances after the new Yankee Stadium opened.

Levine said Tuesday that he and Garber have been friends for a long time, and called that 2009 remark "banter."

"I know the commissioner and he's done a really terrific job for the organization," he said. "They've been significant in my mind for a long time. I watch it, I see the fans go - they are 'Major League.'"

Another factor in the Yankees' partnership with Manchester City is Legends Management, a hospitality and catering firm co-owned by the Yankees, Dallas Cowboys and the Checketts Partners Investment Fund.

Legends takes over hospitality and catering at Manchester City's Etihad Stadium next season under a partnership with Jamie Oliver's Fabulous Feasts that was announced in January. Legends already has started work on premium seats sales.

The new partnership between the Yankees, Manchester City and MLS is about a lot more than catering rights and merchandise sales, though. It's a statement about the future - and present - of soccer in America.

To paraphrase that old New York saying: if MLS can make it there, it might just be able to make it anywhere.

This article contains information from The Associated Press.