x Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 21 July 2017

Manchester City may bend it like Beckham to net US franchise

Business of sport: Manchester City are close to being awarded a Major League Soccer expansion franchise in Queens, New York.

David Beckham waves to fans as he walks off the pitch after his last game with the Los Angeles Galaxy on December 1. Robyn Beck / AFP
David Beckham waves to fans as he walks off the pitch after his last game with the Los Angeles Galaxy on December 1. Robyn Beck / AFP

After the former Manchester United player David Beckham's success in the United States, the club's "noisy neighbours" are close to being awarded a Major League Soccer (MLS) expansion franchise in Queens, New York.

The franchise for United's English Premier League rivals Manchester City would cost a record US$100 million (Dh367.2m), three people with knowledge of the talks said.

Paul Swangard, the managing director of the Warsaw Sports Marketing Centre at the University of Oregon, said City's involvement with MLS "further validates the strength of the American soccer market to the rest of the world".

"It shows the league hasn't plateaued," he said. "To have it happen now, post-Beckham, is great for the league."

If the Manchester City deal goes ahead, the US team would be known as the New York City Football Club and the former England national team captain Beckham has been contacted about a role, two of the people said.

Manchester City, which is owned by Sheikh Mansour bin Zayed, will explore other leagues around the world, seeking a way to expand its brand, two of the people said. City will pay more than two times the previous record for an MLS team, said the people, who requested anonymity.

Dan Courtemanche, an MLS spokesman, said the league had held discussions with a number of possible ownership groups and that no expansion agreement has been completed.

Simon Heggie, a spokesman for City, said he was unaware of any such deal.

Beckham, one of the best-known athletes in the world, capped his MLS playing career this month with a second straight championship as a member of the Los Angeles Galaxy. He declined to say where he would be next season.

Meanwhile, football fans across the region will be glued to the airwaves on Thursday as Uefa reveals the fixtures for the knock-out stages of the Champions League, the world's premier club competition.

business@thenational.ae

* with Bloomberg News