By Brad Hubbard @bradhubbard
Tuesday saw the addition of New York City FC to Major League Soccer (MLS). The majority of owners will be Machester City FC of the English Premier League and a minority, but active owner, will be the New York Yankees of Major League Baseball (MLB). This looks great on paper and MLS is trying hard to sell it to the media and the public so let’s look at the pro’s and con’s of this.
The PROS. –Based in NYC. The team will be based in New York City, the world’s financial and advertising center. The NFL doesn’t have a team with a stadium in New York City.
–4 teams in the top 2. This gives MLS a 2nd team in the New York TV market and 4 teams in the top 2 TV markets in the US (Los Angeles has 2 teams and is the 2nd largest TV market).
–Balance. A 20th team in MLS allowing for a balanced schedule. It also means a natural rival for Red Bull New York.
–$500 Million. A partnership with the Abu Dhabi government (owners of Man City) and the New York Yankees and a $500 million dollar investment in MLS. The last MLS expansion club, the Montreal Impact, only paid a $40 million expansion fee.
Now for The CONS.
–No stadium deal. In the recent expansion history of the MLS teams were required to have a soccer specific stadium either in the works or ready to go in order to get a franchise. They certainly had a place to play unlike NYCFC.
–There is still no team in the Southeastern US. Major markets like Atlanta, Charlotte, Miami, Tampa, Orlando, and Nashville are without an MLS club. By comparison the NFL has 8 franchises in this region, the NBA and MLB have 5, and the NHL has 4. This region also has 16 of the top 50 US TV markets.
–Chivas Effect. Last time an ownership group that owned another prominent international football club expanded into MLS it was called Chivas USA. They had the lowest attendance in MLS last season, currently have no regional TV deal, and have been constantly pointed to as one of the worst run clubs in MLS. When they originally came into the league they wanted to use Chivas USA as a farm team for Chivas Guadalajara. Now they are rumored to be on the selling block.
–Red Bull New York doesn’t sellout. Red Bull arena, a 25,000 seat soccer specific stadium, in New Jersey that features stars like Thierry Henry and Tim Cahill doesn’t sellout. In fact their attendance was down in 2012 from 2011. They averaged about 73% of capacity. Why would another club, with no history in New York and no stadium do better in the denses sports market in the US?
This appears on paper to be a great deal for Machester City and in part for MLS. Man City gets a foothold in New York and how can that not be good for the bottom line? They hired former City player and US National Team Captain Claudio Reyna as the Director of Football and claim that NYCFC will play the same style of football as Man City. But how? MLS is not the BPL. Chivas said a lot of the same things and they went through two head coaches in their first season.
There is a lot of talk about the resources that Man City has as far as scouting is concerned and how they are going to help NYCFC. When has that worked? Dedicated resources are always better than shared resources. Economically sharing resources makes sense from a business perspective but in sports it doesn’t work. Maple Leaf Sports and Entertainment (MLSE) which owns Toronto FC, the NBA’s Toronto Raptors and the NHL’s Maple Leafs isn’t exactly knocking at the trophy winning door. They probably claim to have great synergies as well but that hasn’t led to hardware.
MLS and Commissioner Don Garber have tried for years to get another club into New York. The only ones who seem to understand it is them. The league would be better served in the long run by expanding into the Southeastern US instead of New York with a passionate, dedicated owner whose sole sports focus is on one club, not two. In the end New York City FC will eventually compete in MLS. How it takes them to get their is up for debate.