Manchester City and the New York Yankees are teaming up in the American soccer market. Their joint venture, New York City Football Club (NYCFC), is set to become Major League Soccer's 20th team, and while that might mean the league now has a super villain, it also means unprecedented investment is heading to MLS.
For that latter part of the equation, NYCFC is good for American soccer, where investment lags far behind both the European game and the traditional American triumvirate of baseball, basketball and football.
MLS announced the news in a press release Tuesday.
Major League Soccer Commissioner Don Garber announced today that a partnership of global sports powers, Manchester City Football Club and the New York Yankees, has acquired the League’s 20th expansion club. The new team will be named New York City Football Club (NYCFC) and expects to begin play in 2015.
Manchester City will be the majority owner of the new Club. As an investor, the Yankees will be an active member of the ownership group.
The Yankees and Manchester City, two of the biggest-spending teams in all of sports, already have a commercial relationship. Both have large fanbases but also often provoke negative reactions from fans.
With 27 World Series titles, the Yankees are the most historically successful team in American professional baseball. Under their late former owner George Steinbrenner, the Yankees outspent opponents and sometimes drew outright hatred from many neutral fans.
Manchester City surged to elite status in the English Premier League with the help of heavy investment from the Abu Dhabi United Group, which bought the club in 2008 (BBC Sport). Since the takeover, City often have simply outspent their rivals in order to attract top talent. The heavy spending and financial losses have drawn criticism.
Such a partnership of obvious villains could alienate some American fans, particularly those who support the Boston Red Sox (the Yankees' main rivals) or Manchester United (City's main rivals). But in American soccer, where investment lags so far behind, the partnership will be positive overall.
Major League Soccer's salary cap currently stands just under $3 million per season—for an entire team (via Soccer America). Compared to the NFL ($123 million, per NFL.com) or the NBA (just over $58 million, per NBA.com), MLS deals in pocket change.
(Major League Baseball does not have a salary cap but charges a luxury tax to big-spending teams. The Yankees, who had a payroll of $222.5 million in 2012, paid a luxury tax of $18.9 million last season, according to CBS New York.)
MLS clubs can circumvent the salary cap partially by using the designated player rule. Introduced ahead of David Beckham's arrival in Los Angeles in 2007, the designated player rule allows MLS clubs to commit only a fraction of a star player's salary toward the salary cap. Clubs currently can sign up to three designated players. For this season's full designated player rules, visit MLSsoccer.com.
Considering the spending habits of its partners, NYCFC will almost certainly take full advantage of the designated player rule. In fact, with all the money potentially available, NYCFC could contend in their debut 2015 season.
Another factor to consider is the draw of New York for overseas players compared to, say, Columbus or Kansas City. With competitive salaries and the backdrop of the Big Apple on offer, world-famous stars based in Europe could feasibly see NYCFC as a realistic option.
That could—maybe will—make NYCFC the team most MLS fans love to hate. But that is not necessarily a bad thing. MLS needs money coming in, and as the press release said, NYCFC is "committed to seeking a new permanent stadium in New York," possibly in Queens.
Whether you love or hate NYCFC, the club figures to provoke strong reactions from most or all American soccer fans. And with heavy investment possible—perhaps even likely—the potential for big-name arrivals could attract an unprecedented number of new casual fans.
Much remains to be decided, and the team has not even played a single match. But once NYCFC begins play in 2015, it's entirely possible to see the landscape of American soccer changing forever.