Major League Soccer commissioner Don Garber has hinted that the league’s 20th franchise will likely be based in New York City (via Goal.com), and reports from NJ.com suggest that the team could well be connected with the same ownership that runs Manchester City.
As always, fans and media share differing opinions regarding whether this would be an overall positive move for MLS.
The pros are clear: a soccer stadium in New York City, America’s largest market, would immediately attract engaged soccer fans that are intimidated by the prospect of traveling to New Jersey to see a match. Queens, the predicted location for the stadium, is one of the most diverse places on the planet. Different ethnicities obsessed with soccer litter the borough, so finding consumers would not be an issue.
There is also the bonus of adding another rivalry to Major League Soccer, a trend the league has made clear it believes is important to growing the game stateside. Because of the proximity to Red Bull Arena, the new franchise would forever be associated with New York Red Bulls.
Such a relationship would fit in nicely with the already established New York area rivalries like the Knicks and Nets, Devils and Rangers, Jets and Giants and others.
Having a club based directly in New York could be intriguing for superstars, too. The draw of playing in one of the world’s most popular cities might be an interesting adventure for players like Thierry Henry looking for new sporting challenges. That could well improve the quality of the league.
The doubters can point to a few issues that suggest that it might not be the best move for Garber to bring his 20th team to Queens. For starters, the argument can be made that a venue in New York would not necessarily draw in fans when considering that the Red Bulls rarely sell out any matches.
Why should the front office expect another team to do well at gate when the team already established in the area is struggling to do so?
Then there’s the side of the debate that points to the many other areas of the country desperate for a team.
Cities like Orlando, for instance, have a built-in fanbase and a soccer-hungry area. Spreading out across the nation to soccer-barren areas might help to further capture the interest of people outside New York City. Expanding the brand could well be a prudent business decision.
Regardless of whether or not the move makes the most sense for Major League Soccer appears to be in the cards. And it will certainly be a wild ride to watch how everything progresses over the next weeks, months and years.