New York City FC is the New “City”
Major League Soccer has placed their chips in New York. As expected, the 20th member of America’s top tier of soccer will reside within the five boroughs, with many looking at Queens as a likely destination.
Perhaps a little more surprising was the partnership of Manchester City and the New York Yankees. The combination wasn’t stunning though, given City’s upcoming match with Chelsea at Yankee Stadium this weekend. The conglomerate already has what the Red Bulls have sought: a true New York City footprint, and a winning tradition.
The Red Bulls have a strong fan base, but not an overwhelmingly large one. They have rarely sold out Red Bull Arena in recent years, even if the South Ward is always loud and surprisingly in tune. Once Thierry Henry arrived, the attendance showed the corresponding increase ownership was looking for. Hovering slightly below the league average last year, attendance has been a point of concern for fans and management alike.
Come 2015, when the newest MLS franchise is expected to come to town, there will be a true New York soccer team. Whether Flushing Meadows turns out to be the new home of NYCFC or if it ends up elsewhere in the five boroughs, there is now a franchise with a “city” feel. Just being close by isn’t the only thing that what will draw fans, though.
Without playing a single game, one could say the new franchise has a more winning pedigree than the Red Bulls. The Yankees are the winningest franchise in North American sports with 27 championships. Manchester City has 3 Premier League titles, including one since being purchased by Abu Dhabi United Group in 2008. City has rapidly returned to prominence after winning their first league title in 44 campaigns in 2012 with an expensive roster of big names. They aren’t quite Manchester United, with their league record 13 titles, but they are bankrolled for the future, and have established a winning program in the present.
This isn’t to say the Yankees and Man City are any more prepared to run a soccer team than the new Red Bulls front office. It’s too soon to say whether NY2, as it was called before an identity was bestowed by MLS today, will be quite as star studded as the Red Bulls. It is conceivable, though, given the strategies displayed by Manchester City and the Yankees in the past that New York City FC will seek to add star power to their roster. They certainly won’t lack for financing, that’s for sure.
Given the constraints of the MLS salary cap it won’t quite be as easy as turning NYCFC into the Bronx Bombers of Queens. It hasn’t hindered the Red Bulls ability to bring in star caliber players either. Thierry Henry, Rafa Marquez, Tim Cahill, Claudio Reyna, Juan Pable Angel and Frank Rost have been tagged DP’s, with Thierry Henry being the face of the franchise since he was signed. But there can only be two of these super stars on each team, meaning there are nine starters who don’t get special status.
In order to be successful with these roster limitations, you can’t rely on star power like you can in European soccer or Major League Baseball. It means finding the Dax McCarty’s (players acquired by trade), Ryan Meara’s (players from the SuperDraft), Markus Holgersson’s (found overseas), Brandon Barklage’s (players found in free agency) and Connor Lade’s (academy or homegrown players). Not just a few, but 10 or 15.
Claudio Renya understands, he was mentioned earlier in the article as one of the former Red Bull superstars. Coincidentally, the announcement of Renya’s new position as Director of Football for the new team mentioned his roles with Manchester City and the United States National Team, but not a single mention of his 29 caps with the Red Bulls a few years ago.
I guess based off that simple written snub, you could say the rivalry has already started.
Major League Soccer is different than most other sports leagues. If a city can handle two teams in this league, it’s New York. Now we’ll see if this new franchise can capture the market the Red Bulls have been seeking for two decades.
Mike Watts covers the MLS (Red Bulls) and NHL (Rangers) for WFUV Sports.