Thursday, May 23, 2013

Birth of New York City FC

The new billionaire owners of Manchester City expect trophies every year so not even reaching the knockout stage of the Champions League, finishing runner-up in EPL, and losing the 2013 FA Cup Final to Wigan made the 2012-13 season feel like a disappointment.  Keep in mind if the aforementioned season happened just a few years ago, the 2012-13 campaign would have been looked back at fondly as one of the most successful in club history, but the new petrol dollars increased expectations.

Almost $100 million of those petrol dollars are going to Major League Soccer since Manchester City and the New York Yankees just became co-owners of New York City FC, the 20th franchise in the MLS that is set to join the league in 2015.

As you can imagine, once I heard that Man City and (gulp) the Yankees were going in as co-owners of New York City FC, I had to do some soul searching. It is one thing to transform from a low-budget domestically competitive club to a big spending global powerhouse thanks to the influx of petrol dollars. It is another thing to actually get in bed with the Yankees, which used to have a marketing relationship with (double gulp) Manchester United.

I wanted to wait a little while before I posted something about New York City FC to see if there would be a silver lining. Thankfully that silver lining came in Claudio Reyna when New York City FC named Reyna as director of football.  Reyna is my favorite Unites States soccer player of all-time and one of the main reasons that I originally started following City. No doubt another one of the big reasons that I originally started following City was that they were the little guy in Manchester, which is obviously no longer the case, so bringing Reyna back into the City family feels like a re-birth of sorts to me.

Thanks to City becoming MLS co-owners and adding Reyna as their first employee, I finally have an MLS team to follow.  As a Chicago resident, I've tried a number of times to follow the Chicago Fire but there are way too many impediments.

For one thing the stadium is too far away from downtown Chicago.  By car you get to sit in gridlock traffic from I-55.  By public transportation you have to take the "L" all the way to Midway airport and then take a PACE bus another 20 minutes just to get to the stadium.  The only relatively painless way to get to the stadium is by party bus from a few local footie bars because you can drink on the bus to and from the stadium.  The stadium is beautiful once you get there, but the commute is painful.

Besides the commute, I've never felt a strong connection to the Fire.  There is scant local media coverage, which makes following the Fire difficult.  If the Fire were more competitive may be there would be more local coverage, but then I would just be a front runner right?  Thus I am getting in on the ground floor of Man City FC.

Once the initial shock of the announcement of New York City FC subsided, the talk turned to where the team will play long-term.  My complaints about the commute to Fire matches is something New York City FC should take to heart. If they follow the Red Bull to New Jersey or build a stadium in a bad location like the Fire, it is hard to leverage the millions of New Yorkers that make that market so attractive to the MLS.

Some people think the Man City/Yankees money is a bad thing for the MLS.  Ironically it is that big money that is keeping the New York Cosmos, the original big money soccer team of yesteryear in the United States, from getting into the MLS because I can't see the MLS putting three teams in NYC.

No matter where New York City FC plays long-term, it will be interesting to see how the petrol/evil empire dollars impacts the MLS. I don't want to rush to judgment, but if they can get a stadium in the city (no pun intended), I think this is a giant step in the right direction for the MLS.

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