MLS: What Does NYCFC Yankee Stadium Announcement Mean for League?

Joe Tansey@JTansey90Featured ColumnistApril 16, 2014

NEW YORK, NY - JULY 22: Fans line up to enter Yankee Stadium prior to the match between Paris Saint-Germain and Chelsea FC at Yankee Stadium on July 22, 2012 in New York City. (Photo by Andy Marlin/Getty Images)
Andy Marlin/Getty Images

On Monday, one of the least surprising details about New York City FC, who will begin play in 2015, emerged thanks to an article by Andrew Das and David Waldstein in the New York Times. 

What is surprising about the report is the fact NYCFC will play at Yankee Stadium for at least the first three years of its existence. 

Once the report—which states an official announcement is expected next week—was published, there were plenty of mixed emotions on social media from those who cover the league. 

One of the initiatives MLS commissioner Don Garber has pushed for a long time is the capability of an expansion team to provide a soccer-specific stadium.

Only two teams currently playing in the league—D.C. United and the New England Revolution—do not reside in a soccer-specific stadium or have one in the process of being built, like the San Jose Earthquakes have. 

Seattle and Vancouver play in stadiums occupied by other residents, but they turn the stadiums into strong soccer venues when they host a match. 

New York City FC's fellow expansion team for 2015, Orlando City, already has a plan in place to build a stadium the club will reside in for the long term. 

Nov 19, 2013; Orlando, FL, USA; Orlando City SC head coach Adrian Heath cheers during a rally for a Major League Soccer official announcement for a expansion franchise agreement with Orlando City Soccer at Cheyenne Saloon. Mandatory Credit: David Manning-

David Beckham's Miami franchise, which has not been given a debut date yet, is also fighting for a soccer-specific stadium of its own to fulfill the request of Garber. 

The new Atlanta franchise, which is expected to be announced on Wednesday, will be owned by Atlanta Falcons owner Arthur Blank, and will reportedly play in the new Falcons stadium that will have a similar setup to Vancouver's BC Place arrangement. 

While it is not the ideal setup because of the artificial turf, it is still a new stadium that will energize the fanbase in the capital of Georgia. 

In all fairness, New York City FC has a bigger test on its hands because there are not many places to build a stadium in the city, but it does seem like the club is being let off the hook a bit because of the revenue that is expected to be pumped into the club from its owners. 

The key for NYCFC will be to find a way to mask the Yankee Stadium infield in a way soccer fans in the Big Apple can truly appreciate the playing surface.

If you look back to the exhibition played between Manchester City and Chelsea last season, you will notice how far away the field was from the stands in certain places, and how the infield still sticks out despite the attempt to cover the dirt. 

NEW YORK, NY - MAY 25:  Manchester City heads to the net as Chelsea defends at Yankee Stadium on May 25, 2013 in the Bronx borough of New York City. Manchester City defeated Chelsea 5-3.  (Photo by Elsa/Getty Images)
Elsa/Getty Images

Certain groups of fans have been known to criticize the league for sharing facilities with the National Football League and ridiculing teams like Seattle and New England for the football lines left painted on the field starting in August. 

That is a problem MLS has faced for years, but it is something it has looked past in Seattle because of the high attendance figures.

As for the fans, they are the ones that will be hurt the most out of this deal since commuting to Yankee Stadium is no easy task during rush hour, and the field will be so far from some of the seats. 

The outfield seats will be the most valuable because of its locale, but for those who can't afford those seats, a far view from behind home plate may not be enough to visit the soccer version of Yankee Stadium on repeat occasions. 

Then, there is the concern about the costs of the seats. The Yankees are famously known for charging way too much for a seat. In soccer terms, the Yankees are like Arsenal when it comes to ticket prices. 

If that becomes an issue, the league office will be forced to get involved because the last thing Garber and the higher-ups at MLS headquarters want is to have an empty Yankee Stadium being broadcast across the nation and the entire globe. 

If for some reason NYCFC fails to secure a soccer-specific stadium after three years, things could get ugly, especially if the product on the pitch, which is expected to be of high quality, fails to impress. 

MLS has seen a club backed by a big-name club fail before with the Chivas USA model that was run into the ground by Jorge Vergara. 

While NYCFC is far from being compared to Chivas USA yet, it could go down that dark, scary path in the worst-case scenario. 

The good news for now is that NYCFC should have a home, and the two ownership parties involved seem to be doing a good job behind the scenes in preparation for the 2015 launch. 

If everything goes well on the pitch for the powerful club, then the stadium issue will take a back seat, but if things do not go swimmingly in the Yankee Stadium outfield and fans begin to voice concern, the situation could become an ugly one for a league searching for nothing but success at the moment. 


Follow Joe on Twitter, @JTansey90.


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