Is the New York market ready for a second MLS team? I would love to see a lot more support for the team they have already before taking that leap, but MLS thinks otherwise. (Photo by Mike Stobe/Getty Images for New York Red Bulls)
So here is the final piece of three (Part I, Part II) in this rather in depth look at the questions surrounding adding a second team to the New York market (yes the Red Bulls and Harrison, NJ are part of that market). It has been fun to be able to exchange ideas with Mike Firpo of SoccerNewsday.com on this topic, he is a very knowledgeable guy on this topic and while we might not agree on things, like most of the soccer fans that follow Major League Soccer this topic is one that brings out a lot of emotion and passion.
My final question really leads to a recap of the previous points
So please someone tell me how by having another team in New York will it benefit all of MLS?
MIke- Sure. To recap the main points:
All major American sports have multiple New York/New Jersey clubs in their league. They're not there in duplicate (and triplicate) for the pizza (though it's outstanding) but for the strategic value of being in the most important city in the Americas, if not the world.
Denzel - Sure they do, but in most cases after decades of one team having success, and don't forget that both of their NFL teams play in Jersey, not New York but that doesn't stop the fans from supporting them. I get that New York is an important market, but until they show real support for the team that is there, putting a second team in that same market seems very presumptuous.
Mike - That's like saying that it is the fans' fault in Dallas/Fort Worth that FC Dallas attendance is less attended in the far Northern suburb of Frisco. The New Jersey treck to Red Bull Arena from vast reservoirs of NYC based fans, is simply too far for the draw of seeing that level of soccer that many times (the NFL plays only 8 regular season home games - which becomes rare events, much easier). Most importantly, New Jersey is not New York, to have a North American sports league without a club located IN New York City, does not work. Though the Cosmos got big numbers, we can all agree the MLS clubs cannot become the Cosmos in this structure, so they cannot draw those numbers, hire those players and garner enough of the passion of the New York City population. This issue is multiplied by not having the team IN New York. New Jersey is not their tribe.
Denzel - So the NFL doesn't work? Silly, listen the area that is considered the New York market includes northern New Jersey, to say it doesn't is just wrong. The Cosmos and the NFL teams all play/ed in Jersey and nobody had a single problem supporting them. I get that they are very different, but adding another sports option to the city with the most sports teams in the US, when they don't support the team they have, or the league (look at TV numbers) is risky to say the least.
Mike - See reasons above why the NFL works. Apples and Oranges. Understanding New York or the LA metropolises, with all due respect, is far more complex than understanding small MLS markets like KC, Columbus or Salt Lake City. A properly placed MLS club in NYC will tap into some of the best soccer fans in the nation. The passion will help ignite derbies with cross-state New Jersey. It will create great rivals with historical enemies in Boston, Philadelphia and possibly even Los Angeles as well.
Denzel - I get that, I mean heck the LAG vs Chivas USA rivalry is big, not as big as many other rivalries, but sorry to put a new team in a city for 2-3 rivalry matches a year seems again to be a big risk
Mike - Tell that to the Australian A-League who will now have 2 teams in Sydney and 2 in Melbourne, in a 10 teamn league. Different situations, but in soccer derbies mean a tremendous amount. Also, big cities need more teams. See London, Buenos Aires, etc.
Big risk ... why does the NFL, NBA, MLB and NHL have multiple LA, New York or Chicago teams? Have any flopped recently due to low spectator numbers? Not really. New York City's MLS team will have support, passion, rivals (NJ, Philly, DC, New England, LA, etc) and be a success off-the-field..
You mentioned the owners will split the franchise payment. Yes, but that will be small potatoes over the long-term (and most MLS owners are not here for today, but the growth of the value of their MLS franchise/asset tomorrow) as the NYC club become one of the most valued in MLS and in worldwide soccer. The owner(s) will have a piece of sports franchise gold in the future. A club in one of the world's up-and-coming leagues, in the world's sport, in one of the world's most diverse cities.
Denzel - Sure that could happen, or it could be a team the draws like Chivas USA that have to block off ½ of their stadium so it doesn't look so bad on TV. If a club with one of the biggest, and most energetic brands in the world as their owner/sponsor can't make an impact what makes you think the leadership of a new team is a sure thing? We know that New York doesn't support the league now, by selling out the new stadium in their market, where a team with some big names players. We know they don't watch the league on TV, despite being the biggest TV market; they don't rank in the top 10 markets that watch MLS. Again a whole lot of risk.
Mike - Consider giving this project and the MLS owners/leadership (who deserve it) some faith Denzel and I think you might be surprised. I don't personally think the MLS NYC club should negate or push out of the way other expansion into other soccer cities and new cities for soccer to take hold, but I do think it is as relevant as any city, if not more, to get it right. If they can help DC, New England and NYC get SSS in properly located areas - all of MLS is better off
The club will boost revenues (over time) for the entire league and all owners. Increasing the value of the other clubs, the broadcasting rights, sponsorship deals and raising all the revenue streams, as only a major market club can do (see LA Galaxy) if they make wise decisions and reinvest.
Denzel - So you have 3 teams in the top two markets in the US, and only one of them is considered a big success (which is funny cause I don't think they make a lot of money), two of them have spent tens of millions on big name players but MLS hasn't gotten a huge new TV deal, because the TV numbers for national TV suck.
Mike - Incorporating the majority of the nation's biggest metropolis into MLS in a stadium in their territory, not their neighbors, will help boost the popularity of the league and raise fandom in the Northeast, which has lagged behind the newer markets in the Pacific Northwest. A NYC club, with heaps of new and reinvigorated MLS fans with a horse in the race, can raise all boats when it comes to passion.
Denzel - The Pacific Northwest have a long history from NASL, to USL, to NASL again, finally to MLS, where exactly is that history in the Northeast, those clubs kept playing after the original NASL collapse. That isn't the case with the Cosmos or any of the team on the East coast, so thinking that they can model something close to what is happening in the Pacific Northwest or even in Canada, isn't likely to happen.
Mike - Followup: Where is that history in the Northeast? I think it was in Part 1 of this story that I pointed out that the NASL/Cosmos/Pele boom in 1975 had an epicenter not just in the Northeast of the United States, but New York City itself. Saying the entire Northeast has little tradition, belies the NASL and most of the early history of the MLS. The Northeast of this nation was also the home to much of the rich non-St. Louis soccer for a long period of our history.
Also you noted the Cosmos did not keep playing. They certainly did but alas like most clubs (even PNW) failed and went away for a time only to be resurrected in various forms/leagues. And luckily for the Cascadian clubs - MLS is now their rightful home.
A NYC based club and stadium will attract more international players than adding most other non-MLS markets. Miami and San Diego will be great contributors and should be MLS cities one day as well, but even both cities with their respective attractiveness in glamour and lifestyle, cannot match what New York offers to players.
Denzel - How has that worked for the Red Bulls? How has that worked for Chivas USA? Yeah sorry, with the MLS structure you get 8 international players, only 3 DP's so your ability to attract players that would care more about lifestyle than just getting paid is rather limited.
Mike - You think that players aren't really attracted to New York City? Some have specifically cited that very thing. Thierry Henry was a lover of NYC for most of his career. There are many cases of lifestyle/quality of life in MLS' present and past of foreign players being lured to our shores. It will always be a plus, and certain cities will have advantages: LA, New York, Chicago, Seattle and eventually Miami, San Diego, etc.
There are honestly many more reasons, but maybe it's best if you hear more from MLS Commissioner Garber, the eventual owners, the local fans ... and the inevitable wisdom of hindsight from foresight.
Denzel - Ah, I have heard Don Garber talk about this a number of times, heck he is busy pimping a NY2 team so often that I think everyone has heard his sales pitch. Here is my problem with that, I have a ton of respect for what Don Garber has done for MLS, but there is a point where he simply struggles to understand things outside of him comfort zone. I do not blindly trust the decision making of the league, and I don't know many fans who do, they are a bunch of politicians, they say what the audience they are talking to wants to hear.
I stick with my original point, if this was such a sure thing, why since 2005 when the league started expanding hasn't it happened? Why does this potential market deserve millions of dollars to be spent by the league (which is paid for by you and me) when nobody had to do it in Toronto, Seattle, Philly, Vancouver, Portland, or Montreal? Why in 8 years hasn't a single investor stepped up with their own money to put a team in New York City proper, if it is such a great idea, a sure fired hit? Until that happens, I am unconvinced that the league I have supported since 1996 is making a good decision. I would love to hear from the potential owners of the team, as to why they are unwilling to spend their own money to find a stadium location, to try to get funding for a stadium, and why they think every fan of MLS should foot part of the bill for them.
Mike - Pleasure discussing this with you Denzel. Even if you are still not convinced I hope you give this New York club some more belief and in the end that it works out for the best for NYC, MLS and North American soccer. All the best!
Denzel - One thing is clear, until a stadium breaks ground, until a franchise fee is paid, and an owner is found, I do not think that this is a good idea for Major League Soccer to fund or prioritize over all the other potential markets.
So there you have it, part 3 of our conversation on Major League Soccer's obsession with New York 2, which I believe will happen, it will happen with the name of the Cosmos, and which I think is a very big risk. I do believe at some point a second team in New York makes perfectly logical sense, just like expansion into other markets as well. I think it should happen the same way, and following the same rules as every other team has had to do since 2005.
I would love to know your thoughts on this topic, I know the conversation via comments and twitter has been fun and it show me how much people who are fans of soccer and MLS are interested a lot more than just a casual following of their local team.
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