Wilpons would make ‘great’ owners of 20th MLS team

The Wilpon family’s legal troubles would not prevent them from

owning the 20th Major League Soccer team, though commissioner Don

Garber is open to putting the expansion squad in another

market.

MLS wants a second franchise in New York, and had hoped to have

something in place by 2013. The league is expanding to Portland,

Ore., and Vancouver this year, and its 19th team begins play next

season in Montreal. But Garber said Friday he needs more

information on the owners of the relaunched Cosmos and their

finances, and the Wilpons are being sued for at least $300 million

by the trustee trying to recover money for the victims of Bernard

Madoff’s Ponzi scheme.

”We’re bullish about the opportunities, whether it’s with the

Cosmos alone or partnering them with others,” Garber said. ”It’s

possible that another market could jump in there, and if that

happens, we’ll move our efforts and plans in New York to a later

time period. There are no shortage of folks that have interest in a

team.”

Atlanta, San Diego, Las Vegas and Detroit have expressed

interest in having a team, as have cities in Florida.

The preference, though, is to have the new franchise in New York

and create a rival for the Red Bulls, and Garber said he still

thinks the Wilpons would make ”great” owners.

The Wilpons have strongly denied any wrongdoing, saying they

were victims of Madoff’s scheme. But the lawsuit has hurt their

finances. The Wilpons acknowledged their New York Mets needed a

loan from Major League Baseball in November, and said in January

they were looking to sell a minority interest in the club to raise

money. The Wilpons have insisted they would remain in control of

the Mets.

”The success of our league is the core values of our ownership

group and … I believe the Wilpons fit very well with our owners

in terms of who they are and their values and their ethics,”

Garber said. ”I really hope they get through their issues quickly.

I don’t believe the full story has been told, and I am very

supportive of them.”