By David Brand
In the days since Councilmember Francisco Moya and Queens Borough President Melinda Katz posed for a photo with Spanish soccer legend David Villa at Borough Hall, one tidbit released from Katz’ press team has intrigued soccer fans in the borough — and throughout the United States.
It looks like Queens may be getting 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 task force 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” that would play in the 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).
Soccer writer Chris Kivlehan saw the post 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.
On Tuesday, 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.
Digging a little deeper into the potential #USL2Queens project I reported on here last week & @D4v1dBr4nd reported on today, the domain name https://t.co/TUU1gjBHfF is registered to Bizzy Signals Entertainment, a company owned by ex-SUM executive, Michael Cohen (not that one!) pic.twitter.com/rt9wvmwlpF— Chris Kivlehan (@kivlehan) October 2, 2018
“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 a phone call and voicemail from the Eagle.
As of press time, Katz’ office did not respond to request for comment. On Tuesday, a spokesperson for Moya said he would get back to the Eagle with more information about the meeting.
On Tuesday night, 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.”
DV7 has not yet responded to the Eagle’s request for comment.
Kivlehan, 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 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.
And Villa does have a reported net worth of $50 million.