Middlesbrough takes the lead in the Jack Harrison sweepstakes

The New York City FC winger is looking more and more likely to head to England in the coming days, but it's looking less likely to be a trip to Stoke

Middlesbrough has moved into the lead in the race to land New York City FC's Jack Harrison, and the Championship side's approach for the young winger could come with a little help from Manchester City.

Reports emerged on Tuesday linking Man City to a purchase of Harrison from its sister club, along with a subsequent loan to Boro. Sources have confirmed to Goal that Middlesbrough has become the new frontrunner for Harrison's services, with Boro manager Tony Pulis keen to add the England U-21 midfielder to help his club's promotion push.

Representatives for Middlesbrough have flown to the United States to finalize a loan deal for Harrison, who Manchester City is reportedly prepared to buy from NYCFC. By completing the sale now, before the close of the transfer window in England, the transfer would help give NYCFC the resources to add reinforcements during the current MLS transfer window, which doesn't close until May 8.

Stoke City has fallen out of the race for Harrison after initiating the first major move for him earlier in January, but after having a series of offers rejected, including a recent bid in the neighborhood of $7 million, the Potters appear resigned to losing out on the Stoke-born winger.

A transfer of Harrison to Manchester City would mark the second time this week that the Premier League leaders have made a move to benefit its fellow member of City Football Group. Over the weekend, Umbro announced Manchester City's acquisition of midfielder Mix Diskerud, a move that came immediately after the American midfielder had agreed to terminate the remaining year on his contract with NYCFC. The move allowed NYCFC to remove Diskerud's contract from its salary cap in 2018, while effectively transfering the loss to Manchester City's books. Diskerud is expected to be loaned out in the near future, and isn't expected to remain on Man City's books beyond this summer.

It remains unclear what fee Manchester City is ready to settle on for Harrison, but it won't necessarily be for more than the $7 million offered by Stoke City. Man City can load the transfer with a sizeable sell-on clause, which would give NYCFC a portion of any future sale of Harrison, who would more than likely be moved this summer.

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If the sale and loan are finalized, Harrison would have his chance to boost his summer transfer value with a good run at Middlesbrough, which is currently in eighth place in the League Championship, four points out of the promotion playoff places.

MLS has not made any significant changes to its guidelines regarding interactions between MLS teams and sister clubs (Manchester City-NYCFC, New York Red Bulls-RB Leipzig, Montreal Impact-Bologna), though there has been a clear increase in activity within those partnerships.

In the case of a transfer like Harrison's looming move to Manchester City, MLS rules prevent Man City from grossly overpaying for Harrison in order to boost NYCFC's MLS coffers. Sister clubs must pay what is considered market value for transfers from their MLS-affiliated partners.