New York City FC Is a Huge Victory for MLS, Defining Moment for Don Garber

Dan Levy@danlevythinksNational Lead WriterMay 21, 2013

It's safe to say that in the soccer world, Don Garber and MLS have won the day. 

Garber, the long-tenured commissioner of Major League Soccer, announced the creation of New York City Football Club on Tuesday, a joint venture between Manchester City FC of the English Premier League and the New York Yankees of Major League Baseball, to be the league's 20th official club, starting in 2015.

Garber has been working on a deal to bring the 20th team to MLS for nearly three years, essentially demanding the 20th franchise be placed in New York City despite other viable markets being ready to take on a club. And how can one forget those plucky Cosmos—whatever they are—constantly remaining a thorn in the whole NY2 concept since its inception. 

Today, the story isn't about the Cosmos. Garber has taken back New York, placed his 20th franchise in the city he always wanted and took care of the coveted franchise fees of $100 million dollars the league certainly needs moving forward.

From the press box of Major League Soccer, commissioner Garber is quoted as saying:

We proudly welcome two of the most prestigious professional global sports organizations to Major League Soccer. This is a transformational development that will elevate the league to new heights in this country.

The New York area is home to more than 19 million people­, and we look forward to an intense crosstown rivalry between New York City Football Club and the New York Red Bulls that will captivate this great city.

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A new team in New York backed by the Yankees and a top EPL club, and Garber gets to cash a check for $1 million. Yeah, I'd say Garber had a pretty good day. 

Truth be told, Garber has been on a run of good news over the last few days.

After announcing his retirement from playing, David Beckham was linked with returning to MLS in an ownership capacity. The rumor got so hot that MLS vice president of communications Dan Courtemanche had to publicly put out the flames, telling reporters (via The Miami Herald):

Our focus is on the second team in New York, and Orlando City SC’s owners are very aggressive about bringing an expansion team to Central Florida. We’d love to be in South Florida at some point, but we currently do not have any specific plans for an expansion team in Miami.

So in a week's time, MLS has been the center of a nine-figure deal with backing from the Yankees and Manchester City to bring a second team to New York—an actual team in New York City to create an instant rivalry with the New York Red Bulls of New Jersey—and rumors that Beckham might want to be the owner of team 21. (It should be noted that Garber has since told reporters the league plans to take a break before further expansion.)

This is a time for MLS to celebrate.

The only thing that didn't go Garber's way this week was Frank Lampard's one-year deal to remain with Chelsea, keeping him away from MLS for at least one more season…and clearing the path for him to be the face of NYC FC in 2015. All in all, it seems Garber made out OK for now, and maybe down the line as well.

The Yankees and Manchester City haven't done too badly with this deal either.

For the Yankees, it's another way for the franchise to own a piece of New York's sports scene. With 10 professional sports franchises already in the market, the Yankees are smart to expand their brand in whatever ways possible.

The Yankees, per Forbes, are the most valuable sports franchise in America at $2.3 billion. Of the 27 American sports franchises valued over one billion dollars last year, four are in the New York area. The Yankees are on top, but it's savvy business as much as good baseball that keeps them there.

Manchester City is also smart to partner with MLS and the Yankees, helping to expand their brand beyond the moniker of the second best team in the third largest city of the 22nd most populated country in the world. Manchester United is one of the richest sports franchises on the planet, and despite the deep pockets of the current City owners, the "other" team in Manchester will always play second citizen in its own town.

In New York, however, they can be kings. By teaming up with the New York Yankees, Manchester City can take a small glimmer of the spotlight away from their cross-town rivals (Note: The owners of Manchester United also own an American sports franchise with a bit more value in Tampa Bay) and be the first Premier League side to truly make MLS a bridge to European soccer for young players who get their start in America.

Sure, there are detractors of the deal. For one, Red Bulls fans cannot be happy about this, no matter how MLS tries to spin it.

For years it has felt like RBNY was a second citizen in New York to the theoretical NY2 team, so now that the team actually exists and has enormous backers, RBNY fans have to be nervous about getting lost in the swamps of Jersey. 

Some critics have suggested that such a visible partnership with Manchester City and the Yankees could hurt the MLS team from growing an organic fanbase in New York, especially if there are Manchester United fans and New York Mets fans looking to get into MLS.

The easy answer there? United fans and Mets fans should root for the Red Bulls! MLS wins either way.

Still, Garber's next challenge has to be to convince casual American soccer fans to care about a rivalry between New York teams. He informed reporters on Tuesday's teleconference that the plan for two New York teams was part of the original MLS model back in 1996.

Garber is doing his best to stoke the rivalry, beginning on the day of the announcement.

Of course, the league has to also remember there are 18 other teams. We know the league is aware of at least one of the two teams in Los Angeles, but there are 17 other franchises around the country that Garber needs to make sure stay happy and competitive. Relying too much on a few teams can be dangerous for any league, especially one as top-heavy as MLS might easily become. 

That becomes a problem for the near future. Today's MLS news is all about New York and Garber. He shouldn't need to sell this to anybody.


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