A version of this story originally appeared in the Queens Daily Eagle.
The plan to establish a professional soccer team in Queens is starting to take shape and may kick off as soon as 2020, according to sources familiar with the project, soccer writer Chris Kivlehan reported Monday.
Kivlehan shared the information about the team — which will be partially funded by a company owned by soccer superstar David Villa — on the website Midfield Press.
“The David Villa-backed USL Queens project is looking at getting off the ground in 2020, according to sources with knowledge of the group’s plans,” Kivlehan wrote. “The project, spearheaded by David Villa’s DV7 Academy, is focused on getting a soccer specific stadium built in Queens.
Earlier this month, Villa left NYCFC which plays at Yankee Stadium, to join a professional team in Japan. Villa’s departure from NYCFC may free him up to take on higher profile role in the new club’s development. He has a reported net worth of $50 million.
“[Queens FC] is not believed to be affiliated with his former club and could in fact be competing with it in some ways,” Kivlehan said. “Some have speculated the project could be announced in the near future, and the 2020 start date targeted according to our sources supports that.”
The Eagle and Soccer in NYC first reported on the new team in October, days after Councilmember Francisco Moya and Queens Borough President Melinda Katz posed for a photo with Villa at Borough Hall. A tidbit released by Katz’ press team after that meeting suggested that Queens would get a professional soccer team.
A caption crafted by the press office and sent to media outlets for publication said that Moya, Katz and Villa met to “discuss the future of ‘The Beautiful Game’ in ‘The World’s Borough.’”
“One option that was discussed is a proposal to build a 10,000 to 25,000-seat soccer stadium in the Willets Point redevelopment area that would serve as home for the Queensboro Football Club, a proposed new team that would play in the United Soccer League, a second division professional league,” the statement said.
The proposal for a soccer-specific stadium in Willets Point is nothing new. Katz and Moya even formed a taskforce to study Willets Point stadium proposals in 2017 and Katz reiterated her support earlier this year.
“I have not made it a secret that I support a stadium there,” Katz told Crain’s in February. “I think it would be a great thing for the constituents of the borough of Queens.”
But the press statement generated significant attention among die-hard soccer fans who had never heard of a proposed “Queensboro Football Club” playing in United Soccer League, a 33-team professional league that is considered the second-tier of the American soccer pyramid after Major League Soccer.
The proposed club name was first reported by the website SoccerInNYC.com (full disclosure: the site is operated by Eagle managing editor David Brand).
Kivlehan saw the statement about the proposed Queensboro Football Club on SoccerInNYC.com and dug deeper into the proposal. On Sept. 25, Kivlehan had already reported on rumors of a potential USL team coming to Queens after seeing the photo of Moya, Katz and Villa posted on Katz’ twitter page.
“I had followed up on a rumor I heard last month that Villa’s academy was working to bring a USL team to Queens but was told by a DV7 rep that it wasn’t an active project,” Kivlehan wrote on Twitter on Sept. 25.
In October, Kivlehan searched the domain name QueensboroFC.com and found that it is registered to Bizzy Signals Entertainment, a company owned by producer and TV consultant Michael Cohen, who has produced major soccer coverage for several networks for decades.
“For over 20 years Michael has dedicated himself to enhancing the business and broadcast presentation of soccer on television,” the Bizzy Signals Entertainment website says. “He is a consultant for FOX Sports and its new FIFA World Cup division, which produced the highest rated soccer show in US viewing history with the 2015 Women’s World Cup.”
Cohen did not respond to multiple voicemails left by the Eagle at the number listed on the Bizzy Signals Entertainment website over the past few months.
Discussions about the team seem to be an open secret among the Queens soccer and political community.
In October, a member of the New York Cosmos, which is based in Brooklyn and competes in the National Premier Soccer League, told the Eagle he has heard a lot of rumors about the team kicking off in the next couple years. A member of Community Board 7, which includes much of Flushing, also told the Eagle he had heard rumblings about the new team — though he had no specifics about a stadium deal.
As of press time, Moya did not respond to request for comment. DV7 has not responded to requests for comment.
That same month, Kivlehan shared more about what he had heard about the soccer club proposal in a post on the NYCFC subreddit.
“I made contact with a person at DV7 soccer who confirmed to me that it was something they looked at but said it was not currently an active project,” Kivlehan wrote. “This chat was in early Sept. Clearly with Villa, Katz and Moya meeting it indeed appears to be active. I heard stadium was more like 10k. I can’t see them building more than 15k for anything but NYCFC.”
Kivelhan, however, said “a trusted source” had told him about the stadium project and “then a second one who would be in a position to be aware” told him that Villa was involved.
“This guy’s info lines up fairly well with mine but I can’t speak to his additional detail,” Kivlehan said on Reddit. “I also believe the Long Island Rough Riders desire to become NYCFC’s USL D3 affiliate so the pro soccer market in NYC could get a few more players soon.”
Villa’s involvement would not be without precedent. David Beckham leads an ownership group establishing a new MLS club Inter Miami FC and former Chelsea striker and Ivory Coast captain Didier Drogba purchased a stake in USL club Phoenix Rising FC in 2017.