MLS has announced its 20th team: New York City FC, which will begin play in 2015, in a yet-to-be-determined stadium. It'll be owned by Manchester City, in partnership with the New York Yankees. It will be sponsored by oil and evil.
The news isn't exactly out of the blue. As far back as last summer, we reported that "a really rich dude from the UAE" was jockeying for ownership, and a brand new soccer-specific in Flushing, near Citi Field. By November, the rich dude had a name: Manchester City owner Sheikh Mansour bin Zayed Al Nahyan. What is a surprise is the involvement of the Yankees, who may just be along for the branding: MLS's announcement says MCFC will be the majority owners, while the Yankees "will play an active role in the ownership group."
(Why not just New York FC, for an acronym that would be significantly simpler? There's that branding already. Much like their Etihad Stadium cousins, expect the pushed nickname to be simply "City.")
I can't imagine this team will want for attention: just by dint of its Premier League and MLB associations, and actually making "New York" the primary part of the name, NYCFC leapfrogs the Red Bulls in recognition. And if they do get a soccer-specific arena in Queens, actually within New York's boundaries, they become more accessible than RBNY ever was.
The stadium situation remains up in the air. There's been steadily growing opposition to plunking down an arena in the middle of Flushing Meadows Park, one of the city's largest green spaces. The club will play in a temporary venue until the Flushing arena is sorted out (Yankee Stadium?), but it's kind of flabbergasting—by granting an expansion team before a stadium site is approved, MLS forfeits its best leverage.
The big question is whether New York can support two MLS franchises. It's pointless to look to Los Angeles for instruction: Chivas isn't a city's second team, it's a parallel team aimed at a completely separate fan base. New York is big enough, with enough soccer fans, that it just might work. But if not, the incumbents might be the ones on the hot seat. RBNY already struggles to fill its wonderful arena, and despite the heavily promoted mass transit link to the city, it's no longer New York's local team. The Red Bulls haven't been successful enough on the field, or put their roots deep enough in the community, to fend off a challenge like this.
The real losers, though? The reborn Cosmos, who played hardball with MLS and will have to content themselves with the NASL. If there's barely space for two teams in New York, there's no room for three.