What happens when the New York Yankees and Manchester City come together to form a new soccer franchise? Well, you end up with an offer that is just too good for MLS to turn down. The combine influence and financial wealth of the two clubs was enough to cover the $100 million expansion fee (and over 300 million for that stadium) and land New York City FC the spot as MLS' 20th franchise. The new franchise will be the first team in New York City, sorry Red Bulls, and will begin playing in 2015 despite their stadium not being finished in time for that start date.
The Manchester City group will be the majority owners of the club with Ferran Soriano, CEO of Manchester City Football Club, being tasked with filling key positions in the organization over the coming weeks. He will be working closely with Randy Levine, President of the New York Yankees, who will be the point person for that organizations involvement in the project.
"We are thrilled to contribute to the energy and growth of New York City Soccer.," said Soriano. "In the Yankees, we have found the absolute best partner for developing a world-class sports organization and a winning team that will carry the New York City Football Club name with pride."
"We are pleased to be associated with this major move by MLS to increase its presence in the New York market and to enhance the opportunity for New York soccer fans to enjoy high-level play in their own city," said Hal Steinbrenner, managing general partner of the Yankees. "We look forward to the opportunity to work with Manchester City to create something very special for the soccer fans of New York -- and to bringing another terrific team to this city for all sports fans to enjoy,"
There will be plenty of questions to be answered about the club over the coming years leading up to their joining the league but one thing we know is that by combining the influence of the Yankees in the New York market with the brand of Manchester City in the soccer world they have the potential to create a branding giant.
Creating that brand will be key for the club and even if the name, New York City FC, is already likely to put some fans off for its clear ties to Manchester City and being just one more example of soccer team choosing to put FC into the name in North America. If they can avoid further poor brand decisions like dressing their players in Sky Blue with pinstripes or having a crest that is almost identical to that of Manchester's they could form the most popular soccer brand to come out of North America since the New York Cosmos were in their prime.
The club will also need to find a place to play in New York City until their fancy new soccer specific stadium is completed. There is no way they are going to go out to Jersey and share Red Bull arena which leaves them with a limited number of options. It has already been suggested though in a New York Times report that the Yankees may be willing to open the doors to Yankee Stadium to the club. The stadium is capable of hosting soccer matches and will get the chance to do so once again this weekend as Yankee Stadium plays host to a friendly between Chelsea and Manchester City (nice timing!). It would not be the ideal venue but it would allow the club to play their games in the heart of New York City and take full advantage of their connection to the Yankees.
Make no mistake about the time of this move and how much it could help MLS out in the long run. The league is about to get down to serious work negotiating new television deals with NBC and ESPN so getting NYCFC confirmed for the 2015 season and having the power of the Yankees connected to the league will provide the league with a lot more negotiating power when they go to the bargaining table with the networks. A boost in tv revenue for be good for everyone in MLS as it continues to be an area where the league has failed to make major strides.
The money that both the Yankees and City could bring into the league has the potential to be a huge boost to the game. If they can increase the TV revenue and push for the salary cap to be increased more than it has in recent years it could usher in a new age of success for MLS. It is not the first time the league has worked with owners that have deep pockets and influence but in the past there has been mixed results. A quick look at the city of L.A. and you see both sides of the coin as the Galaxy have thrived thanks to the backing of AEG but Chivas USA have struggled to be a functioning club despite their connection to one of Mexico's most storied franchises. Both the Yankees and Manchester City seem to know what they are doing so it is unlikely that NYCFC will end up being a repeat of what is going on with Chivas but until they have success on the field there will be fear that the club could turn out to be little more than a gimmick for owners who are focused on bigger things.
The club's connection to two powerful sports franchises also assure it of going right to the top of the list as many MLS fans most hated club. If you happen to be a fan of the New York Red Bulls, the Boston Red Sox, the New York Mets, Manchester United, or the the Toronto Blue Jays chances are you have at least one good reason to despise this team even before it ever steps on the field. Both the Yankees and Manchester City have a lot of people who dislike them as a result of their success and some element of that will carry over to this new franchise. That is okay though as rivalries have long been a key part of any sport.
Some might fear that the two brands would be enough to keep many New Yorkers from attending games or getting behind the club but chances are that fans looking for the chance to attend live soccer will be quick to get behind the team if they put a quality product on the field despite who they are connected with.
From a Toronto FC perspective the move does not really make that large of an impact. It will lead to a shift in the Eastern Conference when NYCFC joins as it is likely that the Houston Dynamo will be move to the West to make room and balance the tables. Toronto will probably be glad to have to go to BBVA Compass Stadium less often and trade trips to Houston for trips to nearby NYC and it could make for a nice away trip for fans looking for an excuse to head to NYC. Losing Houston from the conference could possibly make things easier but it is likely that the new NYC franchise will be setup to hit the ground running in 2015 thanks to the spending power of the owners.
So MLS now have their 20th franchise and it is the NYC club that they have long been interested in adding. What will the introduction of NYCFC mean for the future of the league? Will it be the massive boost that some think it will be or could it turn out to be little more than another Chivas USA?