May 22, 2013, 7:39 AM EST
I had originally planned something for today about the Union’s 1-0 victory last weekend and HUGE game in Montreal this coming weekend. But that can wait a day or two.
Today’s big Major League Soccer news is all about New York — because when are things not about New York?
The league announced Tuesday that English Premier League moneybags (and this writer’s preferred EPL club) Manchester City are teaming up with the New York Yankees (yes, the Yankees) to own Major League Soccer’s 20th team. The team will begin play in 2015. Where they will play is still unknown, although it appears an area near City Field and Arthur Ashe Stadium in Flushing is the leading candidate. They’ll start in a temporary home, which could possibly be Yankee Stadium.
Casual Union fans might be wondering why a league with only 19 teams (now 20) would add a second New York team before the list of other interested cities — including Miami, Orlando, San Antonio and St. Louis, among others mentioned across the interwebs.
The answer is simple. New York City FC (please don’t try to be called just “City”) is the first New York MLS team.
Now that doesn’t mean the Don’t-Call-Me-New Jersey Red Bulls can’t be a success (they are decidedly not, right now). They have money, they have the backing of a hugely successful company, and they have what is arguably the best soccer stadium in America. They also have a huge audience nearby in central and northern New Jersey to cater to.
But the Red Bulls have never attracted the attention of the glamorous, Upper West Side audience they seem to need in order to feel special. Not even the arrivals of high-priced stars like Thierry Henry and Tim Cahill have changed that perception.
The Red Bulls’ attendance so far in 2013 is slightly down from 2012 (better-attended summer dates are still to come), although it’s safe to safe the butts-in-seats number is nowhere near the current “paid” attendance average of 17,053.
A trip from Manhattan to Red Bull Arena takes 25 minutes by Google Map, 70 minutes by Google Transit, and a lifetime in non-Google reality. Even without a traffic catastrophe, it would be faster to drive from Center City Philadelphia to Red Bull Arena than for a soccer mom to drive there from Long Island. Add gas, parking, Hudson River tolls (which I think are $46 and a first-born at this point) and the chance to spend a day in lovely Harrison, N.J., and the Red Bulls are never going to get the crowd they think they deserve.
And that’s just fine — but only if the Red Bulls put away their ego. There are PLENTY of soccer fans in central and north Jersey, and the greater New York area is plenty large enough for two teams. NYCFC (little clunky acronym, no?) does not necessarily spell doom for the Red Bulls. But without a change of mindset, it might.
What does NYCFC mean for Union fans? Nothing but good things.
Aside from an excuse for a fun road trip weekend into the Big Apple, nothing bad can come from another driveable/transitable local rival. Games at PPL are more fun when the visiting fan section is full, and the Manchester City bank vault (which makes the Yankees look like hobos, by the way) can only serve to bring more big-name stars into the league.
People like to argue that the “rich” clubs in MLS are driving us closer to repeating the history of the North American Soccer League, where a few big-money teams drove the rest of the league into the ground. MLS is established. 20 teams, most with their own stadiums, and a single-entity structure, where, in its simplest terms, the entire league technically owns the rights to and signs the paychecks of every player.
So if you’re a New York Red Bulls fan (where are you, first of all?), you might want to be a little bit worried about your new not-so-nearby-neighbor.
If you’re a fan of the Union or any other MLS team, the biggest problem with New York City F.C. is that you might see John Rocker on the 7 Train to Flushing.
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