Manchester City in America: Premier League club want MLS franchise to develop future stars after academy struggle

New York team would become club's 'nursery' though local objections must be overcome first

Manchester City will use a new Abu Dhabi-owned Major League Soccer (MLS) franchise to nurture future Premier League stars, after struggling to develop home-grown talent through their own academy in the past five years.

Representatives of City's owner, Sheikh Mansour bin Zayed al-Nahyan, are still working to tie up a deal to establish the MLS team, to be called New York City FC, in time for an announcement coinciding with City's arrival to play Chelsea in New York's Yankee Stadium in 25 days' time.

The Abu Dhabis are encountering resistance from locals, who are opposed to the idea of a 13-acre plot of the Flushing Meadows-Corona Park, in Queens, being given to Sheikh Mansour for a nominal sum in return for the construction of a $340m (£200m) stadium. With permission needed from the city council and state legislators, the outgoing mayor, Michael Bloomberg, is seen as key to Abu Dhabi securing the $100m franchise, which will be the MLS's 20th.

City have declined to discuss the Abu Dhabi's MLS plans, details of which were reported in Tuesday's Independent, but gaining this foothold in the United States is seen as a solution to the problem of finding a strong level of competition for the English club's promising reserve players. With the Under-21 Premier Reserve League still substandard for that purpose, an MLS team is viewed by the club as a perfect environment to send young players to, while also locating new local talent.

One of the major obstacles to developing young players that City are experiencing is the struggle to get those youngsters out on loan to lower division English sides for competitive play, because those sides can no longer afford to pay them.

The Independent revealed in February that City's vision is to own a group of clubs, including one in the MLS, in which players can be switched around.

The head of City's academy, Brian Marwood, said last October that he was yet to be convinced that the Premier Reserve League, introduced this season, could produce first-team players. "I'm not sure we can take a boy [from the Under-21s league] and play him against Chelsea [for the first team]," Marwood said.

An MLS franchise would also vastly increase City's brand awareness in the US, a country which offers a commercial environment on a different scale. This was illustrated by the size of Chevrolet's sponsorship deal with Manchester United – £45m a year for seven years from 2014.

It remains to be seen whether New York City FC would play in the same blue as City, if the Abu Dhabis do close the deal, which is understood to be in its final stages. But City would command a significant presence at the new club. A fuller picture is likely to emerge on City's post-season tour, which will see the squad based in New York for the entire six days from 20 May, with the exception of a one-day trip to St Louis.

The prospective purchase of the MLS franchise is also about Abu Dhabi seeking to broaden its own portfolio by entering a league which is growing. In the next 10 years it is hoped that the MLS will have moved from fifth in the table of most-watched sports in the United States, to third – buoyed by its increasingly popularity among the Hispanic population.

In 2012, MLS had higher average attendances than the NBA and the NHL, and a global survey this week named it the seventh-best football league in the world. The league's salary and spending caps offer a genuine chance for owners to make a profit – appealing to an Abu Dhabi ownership which has ploughed nearly £1billion into City and is nowhere near going into the black.

"If England has the world's biggest soccer league, then America has the most up-and-coming league," said Steve Horowitz, partner at the Inner Circle Sports investment bank which has put together soccer deals and acted for Erick Thohir, an Indonesian media magnate who bought a controlling stake in the Washington MLS franchise, DC United.

In the meantime, the Abu Dhabis must counter local opposition to their prospective new stadium, which would hold 25,000 spectators and could be expanded to 35,000, before New York City FC enter the league from 2016. A local councillor, Daniel Dromm, has questioned the UAE's human-rights record and said New York City and MLS should not give NYC parkland away to "an oil billionaire that helps rule a country where gays or lesbians is a crime punishable by death. This is outrageous". The "Make the Road New York" campaigning organisation, which represents working-class residents of Queens, has taken up the environmental cause which baseball's New York Yankees and basketball's New York Nets managed to overcome.

"We call this park the pulmones of Queens, the lungs of the city," Javier Valdes, a director of the organisation, said. "Why are we giving our land away to an oil tycoon?" Mayor Bloomberg, who is seen as a driving force behind the deal, said of the park: "[It] isn't very much and isn't in good shape."

Alan Bennett has criticised the “repellent” reality shows which dominate our screens
tvBut he does like Stewart Lee
Life and Style
The Google Doodle celebrating the start of the first day of autumn, 2014.
Arts and Entertainment
Sheridan Smith as Cilla Black and Ed Stoppard as her manager Brian Epstein
tvCilla Episode 2 review: Grit under the glamour in part two of biopic series starring Sheridan Smith
David Moyes and Louis van Gaal
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Life and Style
Vote with your wallet: the app can help shoppers feel more informed about items on sale
lifeNew app reveals political leanings of food companies
Former Governor of Alaska Sarah Palin, left, with her daughter, Bristol
newsShe's 'proud' of eldest daughter, who 'punched host in the face'
New Zealand fly-half Aaron Cruden pictured in The Zookeeper's Son on a late-night drinking session
Arts and Entertainment
Salmond told a Scottish television chat show in 2001that he would also sit in front of a mirror and say things like,
tvCelebrity Trekkies from Alex Salmond to Barack Obama
Life and Style
Carol O'Brien, whose son Rob suffered many years of depression
healthOne mother's story of how London charity Maytree helped her son with his depression
Arts and Entertainment
The cover of Dark Side of the Moon
musicCan 'The Endless River' carry on the tradition? See for yourself
Life and Style
food + drink
Rob Merrick's Lobby Journalists were playing Ed Balls' Labour Party MPs. The match is an annual event which takes place ahead of the opening of the party conference
newsRob Merrick insistes 'Ed will be hurting much more than me'
A cabin crew member photographed the devastation after one flight
A new app has been launched that enables people to have a cuddle from a stranger
voicesMaybe the new app will make it more normal to reach out to strangers
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

Bleacher Report

Daily Quiz
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Day In a Page

Secret politics of the weekly shop

The politics of the weekly shop

New app reveals political leanings of food companies
Beam me up, Scottie!

Beam me up, Scottie!

Celebrity Trekkies from Alex Salmond to Barack Obama
Beware Wet Paint: The ICA's latest ambitious exhibition

Beware Wet Paint

The ICA's latest ambitious exhibition
Pink Floyd have produced some of rock's greatest ever album covers

Pink Floyd have produced some of rock's greatest ever album covers

Can 'The Endless River' carry on the tradition?
Sanctuary for the suicidal

Sanctuary for the suicidal

One mother's story of how London charity Maytree helped her son with his depression
A roller-coaster tale from the 'voice of a generation'

Not That Kind of Girl:

A roller-coaster tale from 'voice of a generation' Lena Dunham
London is not bedlam or a cradle of vice. In fact it, as much as anywhere, deserves independence

London is not bedlam or a cradle of vice

In fact it, as much as anywhere, deserves independence
Vivienne Westwood 'didn’t want' relationship with Malcolm McLaren

Vivienne Westwood 'didn’t want' relationship with McLaren

Designer 'felt pressured' into going out with Sex Pistols manager
Jourdan Dunn: Model mother

Model mother

Jordan Dunn became one of the best-paid models in the world
Apple still coolest brand – despite U2 PR disaster

Apple still the coolest brand

Despite PR disaster of free U2 album
Scottish referendum: The Yes vote was the love that dared speak its name, but it was not to be

Despite the result, this is the end of the status quo

Boyd Tonkin on the fall-out from the Scottish referendum
Manolo Blahnik: The high priest of heels talks flats, Englishness, and why he loves Mary Beard

Manolo Blahnik: Flats, Englishness, and Mary Beard

The shoe designer who has been dubbed 'the patron saint of the stiletto'
The Beatles biographer reveals exclusive original manuscripts of some of the best pop songs ever written

Scrambled eggs and LSD

Behind The Beatles' lyrics - thanks to Hunter Davis's original manuscript copies
'Normcore' fashion: Blending in is the new standing out in latest catwalk non-trend

'Normcore': Blending in is the new standing out

Just when fashion was in grave danger of running out of trends, it only went and invented the non-trend. Rebecca Gonsalves investigates
Dance’s new leading ladies fight back: How female vocalists are now writing their own hits

New leading ladies of dance fight back

How female vocalists are now writing their own hits