Puerto Rico FC was unveiled as the North American Soccer League’s 13th club on Thursday with the backing of New York Knicks forward and NBA all-star Carmelo Anthony as the team’s sole owner.
“It is an honour for me to bring back soccer to Puerto Rico, my beloved island, birthplace of my father, and a special place that as you know, I carry with pride in my heart and soul,” Anthony said at the press conference.
“Through my foundation, I have been coming to Puerto Rico for the past six years, restoring basketball courts in underprivileged communities. Today, I come back to the island — this time with the commitment of restoring professional soccer in Puerto Rico through the NASL.”
The team will begin play in 2016 and replaces the former Puerto Rican club, the Islanders. The team suspended operations and is currently on hiatus.
“I realized three, maybe four years ago that there was a Puerto Rico soccer team there,” Anthony told ESPN FC’s Jeff Carlisle.
“They were a very successful team, very competitive team in the NASL. For whatever reason over the last couple of years — a lack of money, lack of ownership — a lot of the funds were coming from the government and then that got cut down.”
“When the politics come into play, I kind of step away from it. It was a perfect chance for me to not only revive that energy and that club, but to start something fresh. I wanted to be that one team that represents Puerto Rico.”
Anthony is the sole owner of Puerto Rican club, but told Carlisle that he plans on adding an ownership group going forward.
The former Denver Nugget is a big soccer fan. He trained with Real Madrid last summer during the team’s North American tour and attended a friendly in Cuba featuring the New York Cosmos and the Cuban national team. He met up with Brazilian legend Pele on the trip.
Pele actually congratulated Anthony via Twitter after the Puerto Rico FC announcement.
Anthony isn’t the only basketball figure who is involved in North American soccer. Ex-Los Angeles Laker Magic Johnson is a co-owner and investor in Los Angeles Football Club, an MLS expansion team that will begin play in 2018.