What to Make of New York City FC

MLS announces 20th MLS club owned by Man City and NY Yankees
by Herb Scribner   |   Tuesday, May 21, 2013

NYC FC - MLS

Say goodbye to “NYC2” and hello to New York City FC.

On Tuesday, Major League Soccer commissioner Don Garber announced Manchester City of the EPL and the New York Yankees of MLB would own the 20th MLS franchise, which will be named New York City FC. The team will begin play in the 2015 season.

Manchester City, which is owned by an investment group headed by Sheikh Mansour bin Zayed, a member of the royal family of Abu Dhabi (UAE), purchased NYC FC for $100 million. The team’s stadium, which has yet to find a location, will reportedly cost $340 million.

But while excitement surrounds the latest expansion announcement, there’s plenty to consider about what NYC FC will bring to North American soccer.

Off on the right foot

NYC FC needs to get off to a solid start on multiple levels. Tuesday’s reveal is only the first step in a long process. All the appeal that comes from Manchester City and the Yankees ownership combination needs to be capitalized on from the start. Both sides are well-versed in being successful, so NYC FC must follow suit.

It’s not too far-fetched to expect NYC FC to bring in a top-name designated player for the first season. The team certainly has money to spend. And with its ties to last year’s EPL champion, bringing in a big-time player should be expected. Beginning the 2015 season with a squad made entirely of Expansion Draft players doesn’t fit the winning model that both the Yankees and City have built over the years.

Starting off on the right foot also counts for NYC FC’s stadium. Nothing official has been announced yet, but speculation suggests the team could play at Yankee Stadium in the inaugural season. It’s the best of a bad situation, as ideally the club would want to start its tenure in the league at its own venue.

But being NYC FC won’t have its own stadium by 2015, playing in its owner’s home would only benefit the club. The Yankees could cross promote with special ticket deals and events, and NYC FC would likely pay little to no rent. It would also separate NYC FC from the New York Red Bulls, as the 20th MLS franchise would start play in the Bronx and be a true New York team.

Taking a risk

There’s risk involved with NYC’s newest team, though. Adding a new franchise is usually a good sign for the league, but NYC FC’s addition is a little different than expansion franchises in the past. Manchester City’s owners have deep pockets, and are likely to spend on top players, coaches and staff members.

While that sounds fun for the growth of the league, it signals a shift in how MLS has been operating. MLS has kept its wallet zipped and remained frugal in its spending, with the only extensive costs coming after David Beckham's entrance and the inclusion of the designated player. With NYC FC, though, MLS is bringing in a foreign owner that’s used to spending heavy amounts of cash to reach the top.

And, like I mentioned earlier, NYC FC will be looked at to succeed. So surely the spending will come. This could be a potential issue, as heavy spending doomed the old NASL. It’d be an overstatement to say this one club would bring an end to the league, but things will certainly shift for all clubs in terms of spending. It does force MLS to still maintain control on its clubs and limit spending, even with these foreign owners coming in.

Effect on New York soccer

For a while, there was a general consensus that the 20th MLS team would be the New York Cosmos, as both parties sprung up talks around the same time. It’s unsure how close things came to this being a reality, but nothing came of it and we now have NYC FC coming into the league.

The new team will damage any allure the Cosmos had for stateside and foreign players. Because of the Cosmos’ ties to some of the world’s best ever in Pele and Franz Beckenbauer, the team had a certain international and national prominence. With this new NYC FC side, all of that draw will fade. The top NYC team now will be NYC FC, and the Cosmos may segue into solely being a second-tier team, and nothing more.

The New York Red Bulls will also be affected by NYC FC’s entrance into the league. Television stations and the general media tout RBNY as one of the 2 premier MLS sides along with the Los Angeles Galaxy. But with this new team – owned by a pair of the most prestigious sporting teams in the world – RBNY’s prestige dwindles. The Red Bulls might be stripped down to being merely a New Jersey side.

But a rivalry will build, and that’ll be fun to watch. New York already has attracted top players like Tim Cahill and Thierry Henry, so it’s a familiar team internationally. RBNY will need to up its business side to compete with NYC FC, but it’s already got time and history on its side. Soon we could see 2 top sides in the Big Apple.

The Chivas Effect

We now know there will be 2 New York teams, much like there are 2 Los Angeles teams.

And, similarly, one team is not like the other.

NYC FC and Red Bulls both are in danger of becoming much like Chivas USA, in different ways. Chivas has been a troubled side in recent years, failing to attract large crowds and unable to have much success on the pitch.

Chivas USA is owned by Jorge Vergara, who also owns Chivas Guadalajara. And despite all attempts at Chivas being the Latino-fan magnet, an extremely large Mexican soccer fan base denies Chivas USA because of its ties to Guadalajara. For NYC FC, its ownership could potentially alienate some fans, too. Die-hard Manchester United fans might wave off the new NYC team because the Red Devil’s heated rivals are a part of the ownership. And it is also possible that a Queens-based soccer specific stadium in Mets territory won’t endear the new Yank-owned MLS club to the locals surrounding its sought-after home.

The Red Bulls, though, might also suffer in the way Chivas has. NYC FC has the money, the new glamour and will be a true New York team. Once 2015 hits, NYC FC will be the top Big Apple side, much in the way the Galaxy leads the Los Angeles sides. It is possible RBNY games might drop in attendance much like Chivas games have, and the Red Bulls might soon find itself being a troubled side.

Helping the league

NYC FC could be beneficial for the league overall, though. The ‘brand’ of MLS might increase due to NYC FC’s foreign connections, and especially if the team brings in top players from across the globe. Much like Beckham and Henry paved the way for foreign-based players to compete in the MLS, NYC FC might develop the landscape of MLS athletes.

It’ll also create new rivalries. The obvious one is NYC FC vs. RBNY, but New England might also grow into a potential foe. Historically, New Englanders aren’t too fond of the Yankees, its ownership or anything associated with the pin-striped club. This might be a good chance for New England Revolution owner Robert Kraft to build up the Revs which have been in desperate need of a resurgence, and have it to go toe-to-toe with the NYC side.

And maybe MLS has found its villain club. No doubt this team will have people excited and interested, but it could become the enemy of the rest of the MLS. The Yankees are notorious for being enemies (their nickname is, after all, the Evil Empire) so NYC enters the league with that stigma already attached. The team hasn’t even played a game yet, but other MLS clubs may already see this team as the one to beat.

What’s next?

For those disappointed in Orlando or Miami not getting the last MLS spot, worry not. It’s been clear for a long time that MLS wanted its 20th side to be a second New York team.

And now that it’s a reality, other suitable expansion teams will join the fray. Miami, Orlando and San Diego may not be far off. Expanding past 20 teams might take some consideration from Garber, but now that the league has its 20th team in New York, it’s surely possible the next phase of expansion is on the horizon.

Herb SCRIBNER

Nationality:
USA
College:
UMass Amherst
Club Domestic:
RSL
Club Foreign:
FC Barcelona
SN managing editor and award-winning journalist, Herb has always been known as "The Soccer Guy" wherever he goes. He's a leftback in most outdoor and indoor leagues. He also writes for Deseret News National.
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