NYCFC Faces Early Hurdles

20th MLS franchise contends with other NYC teams, fan support and foreign ownership
by Nick Chavez   |   Monday, August 05, 2013

Blue City – column on New York City FC (NYCFC) & the NYC area soccer scene.

On May 21, 2013, New York City was granted the 20th Major League Soccer franchise, New York City F.C. Cue the gnashing of teeth by the pessimists among us.

MLS just received $100 million in expansion rights money from 2 of the biggest and wealthiest names in sports, the New York Yankees and Manchester City. Their involvement is certainly going to bring plenty of money (MLS can use this), prestige (that too) and media attention (oh, and that please!) to MLS and NYCFC.

The league will now have an actual club within the NYC limits (still to be determined exactly where), which should be easily accessible from mass-transit lines. Finally, MLS will have a club officially in the media capital of the world and, by far, the biggest market in the United States.

The broadcasts of NYCFC’s games seem likely to be played on the YES Network, a widely-viewed channel in the Tri-State area, mainly because they carry live games of the legendary New York Yankees. Surely, the inevitable cross-promotion will bring more attention, TV ratings and fans to NYCFC, and subsequently, MLS.

Case of Red Bull

An argument has been presented that Red Bull New York can’t handle the competition, and that there’s already not enough fans of RBNY.

That’s certainly one way to look at it, and there is some truth to these concerns. To be sure, RBNY would like more fans in their beautiful arena on a consistent basis. And no one can deny that the club is not as important as it would like to be to the citizens of the Big Apple. But you know what just might raise their profile a bit? A big, shiny new club and a RBNY supporter’s section desperate to put them to the sword on matchday.

No doubt, RBNY, you will lose some casual fans to this club (though you will also probably gain more New Jersey fans as they might start feeling a bit territorial with their NYC counterpart vying for regional supremacy), but I’m sure you are made of sterner stuff than that. I’m sure you all are not going to just fall apart at the idea of another club representing NYC.

The appropriate response from all of you should been something like that of your manage Mike Petke when he remarked, “They're the new guys coming in and I'm looking forward to smashing them in 2015, to be honest with you.”

Other NYC franchises

It’s important to remember that NYCFC will be playing the world’s game, which is a growing phenomenon in the U.S. Times are changing, and our time is now. Maintain sight of the glorious future. North American Soccer’s manifest destiny, if you will.

And they will be playing it in a city whose city/metro area combined is the home to about 18 million people. Many of them are immigrants or immigrant’s children. Soccer is the 2nd most popular sport amongst Americans ages 12-24. It is also the most popular sport amongst Hispanic Americans by a wide margin. Drawing fans, despite all the other franchises, shouldn’t be an issue.

Other teams deserving franchises

I will admit some of the markets, like Orlando, San Antonio, Miami, are really impressing me with their support for their lower-tier soccer clubs, and I agree, they deserve MLS franchises. I really admire their passion and dedication to the sport.

Here’s the good news: If these cities are really as soccer-mad as they claim, they will eventually get their club. Popular opinion is that MLS will stop expanding at 24 teams. If so, that leaves 4 franchises yet to be established, as well as the possibility of weaker clubs (such as Chivas USA) probably being moved to a more eager market. So it seems likely that you’ll have at least 5 more spots open.

If another big market looks to really be ready to support like Portland and Seattle have been (I cannot hide my admiration for those fantastic soccer communities), you will experience the glorious moment of being granted an MLS franchise.

MLS needed to have a club in the actual NYC borders. We needed an actual physical presence there and direct access to the biggest market in the U.S., and all the money and media attention that goes with it.

NYCFC and its foreign owners

If anyone despises the Eurosnob mentality, it’s me. With that said, we need to convert them. MLS needs them on board if we’re going to have the best league in the world. And we will, but first we need to unite all soccer fans in the U.S./Canada (and there are quite a few) and get them to see the bigger picture.

The only way to have the best league in the world is to have money. The only way to have money is to have rich investors, filled stadiums and, most importantly, lucrative TV deals. And, to get that, we need much, much better TV ratings.

The more these Euro/South American football snobs ignore our league, the more money and ratings we miss out on.

Though U.S. Soccer does need to develop better players, have more professional-style academies, etc., this is not the big, vital hurdle we need to jump to get where we want to be. The big issue is that we’re not commanding the money we could be.

Be a part of the solution, and not the problem. Keep perspective, and realize what NYCFC represents; a significant step in the right direction, all things considered. 

Nick CHAVEZ

Nationality:
USA
College:
SCSU
Club Domestic:
NYCFC
Club Foreign:
Real Madrid CF
This is the longest-running column focused on the only team representing the 5 Boroughs in world football: New York City FC. Long may its supporters continue to make history.
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