Why Major League Soccer is wrong about New York 2, or am I wrong? Part 2

Eric Cantona had his eye on something, but the potential future of the New York Cosmos in MLS is something beyond his vision. (Photo by Chris Brunskill/Getty Images for the NY Cosmos)

So in Part one we tackled the big question of why should Major League Soccer be giving a potential team in New York so much support?

It was great to see so much conversation on both sides of the topic in the comment section as well as online via Twitter.

I should be clear I don't oppose a second team in New York, I just think the league's obsession with it is a bit unhealthy and I believe if there is demand the free market will dictate and MLS won't feed to fund things like the stadium search and permits. I think the league should be focused on things like their commitment to the fans to be more transparent about things like allocation money, the discipline committee, and how they are going to make MLS one of the top leagues in the world (and what they mean by that). I see a very full bill of things for MLS, so I consider NY2 to be a bit of a distraction that has become a personal obsession of Don Garber.

Still the topic is a fun one and there are lots of talking points on both sides so, lets continue our conversation.

In this part we are going to tackle a couple other questions about New York 2.

First, we focus on one of the reasons a lot of people point to as proof that soccer can be successful in New York, the New York Cosmos. Then second, why don't people in the market support the team they have or the league in general? Again Mike Firpo of SoccerNewsday.com is going to provide some answers and opinions for us, you will find his answers in italics.

  • People are quick to say, what about the Cosmos? I ask what about the Red Bulls?
    So there is a reality that the New York Cosmos did actually play in New York City at both Yankee Stadium (1971 & 76) and Downing Stadium (1974-75), but failed to average 20K at either location. However when they moved to Giant Stadium (East Rutherford, NJ) they saw their biggest crowds, they played at Giant Stadium from 1977 until folding in 1984. So if the soccer hungry fans of New York City would travel to Giant Stadium, one has to wonder why they won't travel to Red Bull Arena? If one takes public transit from MLS HQ (4200 5th Ave # 7 New York, NY 10018) to Giant Stadium it takes 1 hour and 4 minutes according to google maps, but if one makes the journey from MLS HQ to Red Bull Arena it a slightly shorter trip of 51 minutes again according to google maps. So what gives, we will make the trip for one team but not another? At Yankee Stadium with Pele & others the Cosmos averaged 18K fans in 1976 far from the number who traveled to see them in Jersey?

As mentioned previously, the Red Bulls (Henry, Marquez, etc included) are no New York Cosmos. The comparison between modern soccer and then, is not very fair. Pele was the king of soccer, bringing a new sport to masses who thought it was really just for foreigners and immigrants. Pele's arrival in 1975 paved the way for ALL of this. We likely would not be doing this article if he hadn't come out of retirement and enacted the Cosmos craze in NYC, nationwide and worldwide - which resulted in the youth soccer boom that created the players for the national teams, MLS clubs, announcers, the love affair in the Pacific Northwest for the game, etc, etc. It is easy to forget or not understand from other parts of the USA but the soccer boom in America from Pele and the Cosmos, had an epicenter in New York City.

Oh you know there is so much more after the break:

You cannot realistically compare the MLS and NASL eras, the sporting landscape and times were drastically different. Pele was the first athlete in the world to be paid $1million in salary with his move to the Cosmos. Red Bulls are paying Thierry Henry about $5m, the salary of a crappy NBA player. The lineup is not full of Beckenbauers, Chinaglias & Carlos Albertos. Just as LA Galaxy's Robbie Keane is no Johan Cruyff and David Beckham is one of the most popular people in the world, but playing-wise he is no George Best. The NASL and Cosmos were much more special and had a better chunk of the world's best players than the current MLS could hope for or muster with all their financial constraints and modest budgets. The modern game of soccer makes that NY Cosmos/Galacticos lineup impossible to afford for today's MLS. And for the teams that try today that aren't petrol-funded like Chelsea, Man City, PSG or Malaga, but rely on traditional fan-based revenue streams like Real Madrid or Barcelona; they will be doomed to deal with creditors down the line. It just really isn't possible for MLS or other leagues.

For all those previously mentioned reasons, plus the fact that it was new, had MUCH less sporting competition back in those days in America and had much less ENTERTAINMENT competition then (nowadays people are distracted with tons of gadgets, other shows, computers, etc). Back then sports in the USA meant more and held us more captive to our imaginations. There weren't so many sporting and entertainment options pulling us each and every way. It's the same reason many of the largest soccer stadiums in the world have been downscaled over the last 50 years with the spread of TV watching. Nowadays we all have amazing TVs with crystal clear pictures, for some there is no need to go to a game.

If you add all of that together the comparison in attendance numbers 35 years ago, cannot be realistically (or logically) compared. Quite different situations.

  • They don't watch MLS now, what makes you think they will with another team?
    I keep waiting on market by market numbers to be updated, so I have to go with the last numbers I have from the 2010 Nielsen"Changing Face of Sports Media" report. So with all the MLS TV partners focused on the big markets, I believe it is one of the big factors behind adding a second team to New York City. We know that New York is the #1 TV market in the US, but they weren't even in the top 10 markets that watch MLS. Heck 4 markets without teams watch more MLS than does the number one TV market in the country, Las Vegas, St. Louis, Miami-Ft. Lauderdale, and evenNorfolk VA support MLS more on TV than does New York City. So think again that another team in New York means instant ratings, it just isn't true.

Is "They" meant to be the entire New York City metro area? Not sure, but that's quite a big segment of Americans.
We know that New York is the #1 TV market in the US, but they weren't even in the top 10 markets that watch MLS.
As a devout RSL fan, would you enthusiastically tune in and support a team from Boise, Las Vegas, Phoenix or Denver if you didn't have a local team to support? A bit more drastic, but NYC is a big place and they are VERY passionate and loyal with their home town teams.

Follow Up: Actually I did, I watched MLS before Salt Lake had a team, I actually have followed the league since 96, first in Columbus, then from Las Vegas, then in Dallas, and then from Salt Lake before we had a team. We know that other markets do we know that 4 of the top 10 MLS TV markets have no local team but they watch the sport more than do people in the largest TV market in the nation? So how do we know that New Yorker's care about MLS at all? Where is there any proof? I get that you believe it, I get that Don believes it, but where is there a single shred of real evidence?

Follow Up Answer: Visit New York, spend time there; get to understand the people and the geography. This is not opinion, but fact. New York has a tremendous amount of soccer fans, and their passion is tremendous. Besides multi-generation Americans, New York ahs immigrants from ALL over the world who love the game, immensely. Greeks from Astoria, Polish from Green Point, Colombians from Queens, Ecuadorians, Ukrainians, Russians, Africans, Mexicans, Central & South Americans ... its overwhelming. New York's passion for soccer should really not be questioned.

As far as being a Top 10 MLS TV market, I'm not sure that even is relevant. San Diego is, Austin is, but they ARE NOT yet in MLS. I personally want to see those cities plus Miami, Rochester and St. Louis in MLS one day too as all are soccer-loving cities. Even Baltimore. But NYC may not beat them per capita as far as TV viewing percentage, but with a GIGANTIC metro population (like Los Angeles) it doesn't need to.

So think again that another team in New York means instant ratings, it just isn't true.

Denzel, tweet that comment to the league commissioners of the various North American sports, see what they say about NYC, TV, ratings and the need for presence there.

Funny enough they all believe in New York City more than most markets, and I doubt it's just because they like the pizza. The NBA now has 2 NYC teams, the NFL has two, MLB has two and the NHL has 3 with New Jersey.

Follow Up: No it is because there is market demand for the teams. The NY Rangers existed for decades before the Islanders came to town, the Giants existed for decades before the Jets did, and heck the Nets were finally bribed to New York with a new stadium. Each of the original teams was a success for decades before a second came to town, the MetroStars/Red Bulls have been far from a huge success in a league that isn't even two decades old. I believe each of those cases you cite are examples of supply and demand, I just don't see any proof of demand for a second New York team?

Follow Up Answer: Again, not the same market, especially for a growing MLS fanbase nationwide. The draw is not strong enough and the league is only working on its 2nd generation. Proof - well I guess you're going to have to just have some faith in the Commissioner, league and its owners who have brought MLS this far and work in, with, know and believe in soccer and potential MLS support in the actual city of New York.

  • A second MLS team in New York is good for all of MLS, really?
    I love thisargument, because nobody can tell me why. How exactly would a second team in New York be good for MLS, was a second team in LA good for MLS? I mean you took one of the top soccer brands in North America and planted a team owned by them in Los Angeles, and it simply has been a flop on and off the pitch. So please someone tell me how by having another team in New York will it benefit all of MLS? Oh sure a $100 million dollar franchise fee would add about $5.5 million to each team if those funds were split to owners of current teams, but even if this new NY team is branded as the Cosmos, it won't do much for MLS. They aren't going to sign Pele, heck they aren't going to be able to sign Messi, or Ronaldo, or Rooney, let alone a full team of superstars like the Cosmos had in their prime. It simply isn't going to happen, at best they get a lineup like the Galaxy, or Red Bulls, and doesn't New York already have that and not support it? How exactly is this going to be a good deal for MLS?

I love this argument, because nobody can tell me why.
Well I can assure you that Commissioner Garber has answered the NYC MLS expansion question countless times and has made many statements on the subject of why MLS will benefit from a team in New York. As stated above, maybe the most telling is the answer you will get from the RedBulls who would be their rivals. That says much and that's just one club.

I remember the same logic "nobody can tell me why" when Dave Checketts and Real Salt Lake were trying to get help from the city, county and state for financing their future stadium. A ton of negative rumors and ill-informed opinions in the media and then public, seemed to poison what turned out to be a good situation for the club, MLS, the US National Teams, Sandy, the valley and the state. I remember people saying the oddest things about where this financing was coming from, how much it was (exaggerated), what else it could be used for, etc. Most of them didn't bother to understand the situation, made opinions based on hearsay and in many cases their information was flat-out wrong. Because some don't know, hear or understand "why", doesn't mean the plot is incorrect. Granted MLS needs to be even more vocal and public about this situation, but MLS and specifically Garber have answered the "why" numerous times publicly and we know when it comes to finances they usually are discreet to a fault. Also it may not be the best business savvy to show all your cards to municipalities and potential owners at this phase of the game, before there are more solid and finalized plans.

was a second team in LA good for MLS?
Chivas USA and the insistence on the Vergara ownership (that MLS needed at the time with Checketts in Utah) to put the club in LA, didn't help. Then again they immediately had some of the best sponsorship numbers of any MLS club.

I mean you took one of the top soccer brands in North America and planted a team owned by them in Los Angeles, and it simply has been a flop on and off the pitch.
I am not going to argue in favor of Chivas USA, because I thought the ethnicity element and favoring one of two clubs from Mexico, who define themselves with Mexican nationalism and regional identity, and bringing them to the USA as a small cousin club with few, than almost no Mexican, let alone Hispanic players, while targeting to that one club's fanbase - was doomed from the start. Add to that they play in another club's stadium and cannot really ever make the same revenue due to being renters there. It was all a bad idea to be frank and after years of this we are seeing that a major change/rethink is needed whether that be in leaving even a downsized HDC for a more intimate and appropriately located stadium nearer its specific Mexican-American LA fanbase or to San Diego or rebranding as a non or less -ethnic/divisive team all together, ie: a reborn LA Aztecs.

But make no mistake comparing the Chivas USA doomed experiment with adding a club in New York City, NOT New Jersey, at RedBull Arena - is folly. The situations are not alike though it may seem easy to compare on the surface.

There you go a few more questions and a few more answers for you, so tell me what do you think, where after two sets of questions and answers are you finding yourself on this topic?

I can tell you one thing from posting the first part, there are few topics around MLS that have people so divided.

OFF MY SOAPBOX

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