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New York City FC — Another (Richer) New York Rival for the Union

May 22, 2013, 7:39 AM EDT


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.

  1. Marvin Monroe - May 22, 2013 at 10:33 AM

    So Man City and the Yankees are bringing another team to NYC. If a single cent of taxpayer money is spent to build this stadium, there should be riots in the streets.

    Overall it is good for the league. It brings top level money which might start to bring some real top-level talent.

  2. thekrisheim - May 22, 2013 at 10:39 AM

    this is bad news for the red bulls and they know it. expect a big PR push and a move to counter this. if you read the article in the NYT today the queens stadium is anything but a given.

    as far as your google info, this is way, way off. you can be at red bulls stadium from 34th street in NYC via the PATH train in 25 minutes. driving from manhattan or brooklyn, 30 – 40 minutes depending on traffic, but no one would drive there regardless.

  3. UnionCH - May 22, 2013 at 11:04 AM

    I do fear that MLS plans to have a NY v NY or NY v LA final every year. Yes it would be great to see top players from around the world play at PPL Park … but I want them in a Union jersey. It’s going to suck seeing a top player come into PPL and score 8 goals against us. On top of it all I don’t think Garber is going to allow MU and the Yankees invest so much money in MLS and have them in the basement for the first few years of their existance … they will have a top quality squad and not have to go through any of the maturing and growing pains an expansion club should go through. If NYCFC gets an MLS Cup before the Union, I’m done with MLS … there is no way they will earn it fair.

    C’mon the U! & Forza Lugano!

    • Steve Moore - May 22, 2013 at 1:23 PM

      No matter what, big-name players from abroad are going to gravitate toward New York and LA (and Miami if they ever get a team). Nothing you can do about that, and the league is always going to lean toward promoting those teams. TV ratings stink, and that’s the way to improve them.

      The positive difference is that the pay structure in the league and the entire way the league is built makes it impossible for those teams to “ruin” the rest of the league with their big spending. We can simply sit and laugh at teams like the Red Bulls who spend big but never win.

      • 33 - May 22, 2013 at 1:44 PM

        Hard to say whether it’s the location or the money that is bringing them to those locations though. If Philly were offering the same amount for DPs as LA and NY, would they be able to attract similar talent? We probably won’t know anytime soon because the club doesn’t have that kind of money and says they don’t believe in that strategy, but Seattle nabbed Oba Martins and Montreal has added some decent international names for example. We’ll get to see at least Di Vaio this weekend (and he may shred our backline). Not sure if Nesta is healthy or not.

        ‘nother topic for another post, I’d guess—whether that strategy will work for Philly as more teams add both academies and DPs.

      • Union CH - May 22, 2013 at 4:29 PM

        Thanks for your reply Mr. Moore I am a big fan of your articles and appreciate that the 700level takes notice of the Union, and soccer. You make very good points and I know that the league is designed to make it impossible for those teams to dominate with spending … I just fear that garber is going to feel obligated to keep people in the stadium after the massive investment the Yankees and MUFC have made in MLS. I fear that the competition won’t be fair and NYCFC will be handed a championship without ever earning it. I don’t think it is by accident that LA had Beckham, Keane, and Donovan and RBNY has Henry and Cahill. It is just far to convenient.

        By comparison the Union are going about true development the right way by establishing the countries first true academy and developing relationships with Reading and Harrisburg (I’d like to them also grow in South Jersey by maybe partnering up with Ocean City, but that’s another conversation). The Union academy system is going to help the US grow the game by leaps and bounds. Ironically the man that recommened an overhaul of the US System to a more European Academy System, Claudio Ryaena (forgive my spelling), was just hired by NYCFC.

        I welcome your critique and your thoughts.

  4. 33 - May 22, 2013 at 11:17 AM

    With due respect to Steve, since hearing of the partnership with the Yankees, I’ve been thinking this is some karmic response to US-based fans becoming Man City fans after the Sheikh’s money turned them into a world beater, while still viewing them as less evil than the Man U, the Yankees of the Premier League.

    But I too am glad the team is happening as it can only help in the progress MLS has made globally, despite City syphoning off any top talent that may be developed here—that’s going to happen whether there’s an EPL parent club or not.

    I have concerns that a Miami franchise will work, because the trends in other sports there are terrible, but maybe Becks has the magic touch to get it done…

    • Steve Moore - May 22, 2013 at 1:20 PM

      For the record, I have been a City fan since about 2000, and lived through a near-relegation and a bunch of mediocrity. But yeah, a move like this — especially with City’s involvement — will help grow the brand worldwide. People in Europe know what MLS is now, which couldn’t be said 5 years ago. And many don’t see it as some sort of joke. I watch SkySports News a lot, and they sometimes even show MLS highlights without a laugh track.

      • 33 - May 22, 2013 at 1:28 PM

        Yeah didn’t mean to indicate you were one of them, or really that there’s anything necessarily wrong with folks who adopted the new powerhouse over the old one, but it struck me as funny.

        I kinda want the option to watch the highlights with or without the laugh track though.

  5. Hatter12 - May 22, 2013 at 12:31 PM

    How much of this has to be with MCFC owner needed additional revenue to keep up with the FIFA Fair Play act?

    • joeyt360 - May 22, 2013 at 5:55 PM

      Maybe some, but I don’t know how much player payroll you can hide on an MLS roster.

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