Emperor’s Court: Don’t Fight It – Embrace NY2!

Don Garber’s “State of the League” was absolutely flooded with talk about the potential for what has been dubbed “NY2” – Major League Soccer’s desire for a second franchise in the City proper.

Red Bull fans were none too pleased.

I guess it’s understandable; it took a decade for the Metro Bulls to land that gem of a stadium on the banks of the Passaic. Fans were promised a home as early as 2004, and were dragged through a rigorous ring cycle of politics that saw delays, negotiations, red tape, broken promises, and ownership change threaten their dream. Once Red Bull infused some cash into the project, the wait was over – and so was the nightmare.

To that extent, it shouldn’t be a surprise that the following statement’s from Don Garber managed to ruffle a couple of local feathers yesterday:

Via SBI:

“The league is taking the lead on developing the stadium opportunity. It’s the first time we’ve ever done that as part of the expansion process. There have been nine teams over last 10 years to build stadiums, but this is the first one where the league is driving most the important aspects.

“Architecture, consultants and environmental all work for the league. We will put together a project and then we hope to be able to deliver to a potential owner. We’ve been working with the mayor’s office, and it has been a great resource for us, helping to steer us to sites that can be developed and where there is enough community support and to achieve success.”

To an outsider, one would consider this a brilliant proposal; Major League Soccer is doing all the leg work to secure the most important and equally difficult aspect of team ownership – securing a stadium. Nineteen sites have been identified and everyone from the Mayor’s office on down is looking to ease a deal through for the league. By shouldering the political burden, MLS ownership becomes more palpable to an interested owner. By maintaining a $100 million price tag, MLS assures themselves a strong owner who is willing to invest. It’s a win / win.

“We want to ensure that when this project is complete that we have the perfect site for a stadium, and we’ll take the time, as long as it takes, to ensure we have the right site,” Garber said. “That’s how important this second team in New York is.”

If you are a Red Bull fan, you are probably wondering “Where were you during the Metro-years, Don?!” The forgotten franchise, swallowed by the seats of the concrete jungle known as Giants Stadium, had to fight its way to the watering hole, Serengeti style. It would have been nice to know Garber could make the river come to you with one swift movement of his magic wand!

I can hear the cries as my keypad gently clicks away. “Why them?! What about NY1?! Weren’t we good enough?!”

The fact is, times are a-changing. Major League Soccer is coming off of a record breaking year – attendance is blossoming, recognition is growing and talent continues to improve year after year. The LA Galaxy have become the MLS version of the New York Yankees; the flagship franchise for Major League Soccer. Their success over the past several years – The Beckham years if you will – have buoyed the league, and more importantly, have been central in the growth of soccer on the West coast.

Teams like Portland, and the Sounders, joined now by the Vancouver Whitecaps, didn’t necessarily need LA to create the vibrant atmosphere they have put together, but the Galaxy gave them something to shoot for. Hollywood made soccer cool, Los Angeles was the standard bearer and the surrounding teams latched onto that fever, making MLS an acceptable alternative to other competing sports.

The East Coast needs to catch up. The Red Bulls own the territory to the greatest market in the country, but their consistent failure over 17 years – on and off the pitch – has done little to inspire the masses. Even when they have done things right – building Red Bull Arena, bringing in major stars like Thierry Henry and Rafa Marquez – they are overlooked by a market that feels they have heard this song and dance before. New York loves a winner, and the Metro Bulls just haven’t delivered that.

East Coast soccer needs a jumpstart, and it will take more than an MLS Cup win for the locals to do it. They need a second New York franchise, in the state proper, to create an atmosphere that will make the sport “cool” again. A rivalry that transcends all American sports – NY v. Boston – isn’t a viable option so long as the Revolution continue being a penny-pinching franchise. DC United have history with the Red Bulls, but most of that good stuff happened when they were the Metrostars. Besides – what New Yorker hates DC anyway (regionally speaking of course). A rivalry with Philadelphia is beginning to take root, which helps matters, but still needs time to garner interest.

New York v. New York? Now that is an attention getter. The spotlight that franchise will create can only be beneficial for both teams. It would match any atmosphere the Beckham traveling circus could produce. In fact, the environment each derby would create could very well match any league worldwide. And, with the leagues new approach, you will have two teams that are monetarily obliged to field the very best product they can muster.

The media attention will force both franchise to compete for visibility – a problem Red Bull does not currently have to worry about. It will force both franchises to reach out in an attempt to gain their share of the market place. It will make it imperative for each franchise to do their very best to claim their local stake. Competition can only push both teams to be the best. Who wouldn’t want that?

And if you are worried that Red Bull fans would leave in droves, what are you really losing? Were they fans to begin with? The likely scenario will see citizens of the five boroughs – who look at New Jersey like it is China on the map – flocking to see the local team while Red Bull fans continue to thrive with the same fan base that has been beaten into a state of loving, loyal submission over the course of 17 years. Another thing New York loves is an underdog, and the Red Bulls would certainly fit that bill (in a historical sense).

Look, Garber and the front office are willing to wait as long as it takes to make this happen. Don’t fight the inevitable, folks. Embrace NY2. Trust me – it’s not as bad as you may think.

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  • If it’s not built in Manhattan, Red Bulls will be fine. Depending on where people live, they may find that Harrison is easier to travel than other parts of the city. (I’m from Queens and I rather be in Newark late-night than in Brooklyn, lol) Red Bulls FO need to actually advertise and kill the perception that Harrison is pretty far away which they should’ve done from the start. People think Jersey City is pretty far from Manhattan for crying out loud.

    The second team can actually help the inept Red Bull marketing department do their jobs ironically enough. It may force Red Bull corporate to pony up the money for much more ads around the city and maybe on television as well. The team may not have won anything yet but it’s important to air our presence now and especially when the Cosmos arrive. They are just not doing that now.

    Couple things for sure, we can forget about the Cosmos fans, the ones who left due to Red Bull, and those who will just never, ever go into New Jersey. Heck, even without the Cosmos, we need to focus on fresh new faces who want to come to Red Bulls games and stick with us and that’s going to involve better transportation, concession, and atmosphere experience. Let’s focus on these problems because they are what will kill us in the end whether Cosmos come or not.

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