An investment group including Spain World Cup winner David Villa has been granted a USL franchise in New York City.
Queensboro FC will begin play in 2021 in the USL Championship, the second division of professional soccer in the United States. It will host its home matches in a new, modular stadium at York College in Queens that will have a capacity of around 7,500. The new team will also play select home matches at Citi Field, home of MLB's New York Mets.
"Bringing professional football to Queens' diverse community is an exciting and unique opportunity," Villa said in a statement to ESPN. "The beautiful game already lives here, thanks to the melting pot of cultures who are so passionate about the sport. I can't think of a better place for QBFC to grow. I'm proud to be part of this project."
Rumors that the USL was planning to place a team in New York City, as well as Villa's involvement, emerged last summer. Now those plans have come to fruition for the former New York City FC forward and 2016 MLS MVP.
The 37-year-old Villa, who counts Sporting Gijon, Real Zaragoza, Valencia, Barcelona and Atletico Madrid among the clubs he played for, spent the 2019 campaign in Japan with J1 League side Vissel Kobe.
"I'm proud to say I've had a long-running connection to Queens," said Villa. "I lived here for four years while I was developing my football academies, teaching kids not just how to play the sport but to appreciate the game's values, too. Queens is -- and always has been -- special. You feel the passion for football walking the streets.
"It's why we're proud to bring a professional team to this borough. It's the obvious next step following the clinics, summer camps, academies and various other programs for boys and girls we've held in Astoria, Flushing and at Queens College."
The investment group is led by Jonathan Krane, CEO of New York City-based asset management company KraneShares. Krane has previously been involved with the USL. This past season KraneShares was the away jersey sponsor of USL Championship side New Mexico United.
"The opportunity to bring professional soccer to Queens has long been a dream of mine and I can't wait to deliver a USL Championship club that Queens can be proud of," he said. "I'm thrilled to work with David and represent the borough to the fullest as we look forward to kickoff in 2021."
In order to focus on his ownership responsibilities, as well as leading the day-to-day soccer operations, Villa will have retired from professional soccer by the time the team begins playing in 2021. Among his goals is to build an academy for local and international talent to develop.
"We will recruit the best players in Queens as we become the home team," said Villa. "We have a built-in advantage in the number of talented players in the borough. The sporting level in USL is high, which means we have to be demanding in the quality of our athletes. But our goal is to have as many Queens-bred players as possible."
The USL Championship currently has 34 teams, with San Diego set to come on board next season. Oakland East Bay will join alongside QBFC in 2021.
"Announcing a USL Championship club in Queens is a big moment for our league," said USL CEO Alec Papadakis. "When we consider expansion, we're primarily looking for three things: A community who is passionate about soccer, a strong local ownership group, and a pathway towards a soccer-specific stadium. With QBFC, we have all three, and with Jon and David at the helm, we believe this has the potential to be something very special."