Categorized | Commentary

Does New York really need another MLS team?

Posted on 13 May 2010 by Nathaniel E. Baker

Talk of a second team in New York is as old as MLS itself. For a long time, that’s all it was: talk. But New York Mets owner Fred Wilpon entered the fray as a serious bidder for an MLS expansion franchise around 2007-2008, only to drop out after his estate lost a bunch of money to Bernie Madoff.

Now Wilpon is back in, speaking in non-obtuse terms about his desire to bring an MLS club to Queens, N.Y., specifically to the area surrounding Citi Field.

This has prompted vigorous debate on the matter. The pro-NYC2 camp so far appears to be making the most noise, which is unfortunate. Because while there may very well be legitimate arguments for bringing a second MLS team to the area, I have yet to hear or read any.

They all appear to follow the lines of this Goal.com column: Top 10 reasons New York needs another MLS team.

The Goal.com piece is laughable but deserves scrutiny precisely because it is the template used by supporters of the NYC2 cause. Hopefully by debunking it here we can put an end to these bogus efforts and set the area’s soccer fans on a more constructive path. Such as, say, supporting the local Major League Soccer club that already exists.

Ready? Here goes:

1. “The Red Bulls are simply not New York’s team.”
The reasoning is simple: the team’s home ground is in Harrison, N.J., prior to which it was at Giants Stadium in East Rutherford, so they really have no right to refer to themselves as a New York club.

Except, according to this logic, the New York Giants and New York Jets have no right to call themselves New York teams either. Oh but wait: “The Giants and Jets started in the city of New York! It’s different for them!” (So goes the prevailing counter argument.) What about the New York Islanders then? They don’t play in New York City. Never have, in fact. Shouldn’t they call themselves the Nassau County Islanders? “Well Nassau County is still New York state.” Right, and so is Buffalo, N.Y. So teams from there can call themselves the New York Bills or New York Sabres? Moreover, the New York Yankees started as the Baltimore Orioles. Should they still refer to themselves that way even though they switched cities more than 100 years ago?

What it all boils down to is semantics. We can sit here and argue back and forth about which area sports franchises are and are not allowed to call themselves New York teams. It’s a stupid argument that ultimately goes nowhere. Either way it has no bearing on whether there should be a second MLS team for the area.

Because even if you don’t accept the New York moniker, the fact remains that the Red Bulls are the closest thing to a New York area MLS franchise–and one that is not supported anywhere near as well as it should be. Trying to fix that by adding a second team is like trying to fix a financial crisis by printing money and bailing out the institutions that caused the crisis in the first place. Oh wait, that’s exactly what just happened. Bad example.

2. “The Wilpons should be considered a tremendous asset.”
Now why is this exactly? These are the same people that thought Bernie Madoff was a great money manager. Doesn’t exactly speak for sound judgment, does it? But they did build the New York Mets into, uh, the New York Mets. Got anything else? More importantly, how exactly does this favor a second team in New York? I’m not getting the connection. But maybe that’s just me.

3. “There are no other ‘WOW’ bids for MLS expansion clubs”

Who said NYC2 was a “WOW” bid? Why does MLS need another team anyway? All but about three or four of the 16 it has now aren’t drawing well at all. But even if we accept that MLS absolutely needs to expand, how can you say that a place like St. Louis, which is very much the birthplace of American soccer (along with Kearny, N.J. and Bethlehem, Pa. and a few other places) is not more deserving of a franchise? And we’re not talking about putting a team in midtown Manhattan but Flushing, Queens. What’s so exciting about that? You want a real “WOW” bid? Put the team in Las Vegas!

4. “The Borough Boys”

For the uninitiated, this is the New York supporter group that is modeled after Philadelphia’s Sons of Ben. Supposedly this group has the power to create “groundswell needed to precipitate expansion.”

No matter your opinion of the Borough Boys, or on the accuracy of the previous statement, the comparison to the Sons of Ben is not quite apt. Reason being that NEW YORK ALREADY HAS A TEAM FOR THEM TO SUPPORT! Philadelphia did not.

5. “Long Island”
I swear I’m not making this up. To wit: “The logjam of New York traffic separates nearly seven and half million Long Islanders from attending matches.”

So let me see if I can get this straight. You’re arguing for a New York City expansion team because of (wait for it!) TRAFFIC?

Here’s a concept for Long Islanders and other suburbanites to learn about: It’s called public transportation. These are trains and buses that any citizen can take to get from point A to point B. There is something called the Long Island Railroad, which takes you directly to New York Penn Station, from where you can take the PATH train directly to Red Bull Arena! While this may lack the comfort of a private car, it is significantly cheaper and burns far fewer natural resources.

6. “2013”
Because the Mayan calendar ends in 2012 and we’ll be so happy to be alive that we’ll want to put a second team in New York City. Or something.

7. “The existing team is named after an energy drink. An Austrian one.”
Okay, you got me here. This is about as distasteful as that swill they put in those weird little cans with the cows on it.

Sure they do this stuff in Europe; name teams after aspirin products and energy drinks and what-have-you. But in the U.S.? No chance. Unless of course you put them in a city where the majority of residents are foreign born and which has sizable expat communities from every nation imaginable. Not that a place like that exists, of course.

Seriously though, why does this necessitate another team in the area? Have Wilpon or whomever buy the team from its current owners and rechristen them the Cosmos or something if you really care so much. Instead of constructing a stadium in Queens, build a better rail connection to downtown Manhattan’s World Trade Center hub. That will have the additional benefit of being useful to society as a whole, unlike sports stadiums which invariably just make the team’s owners even richer while fleecing taxpayers. (If you don’t believe me I challenge you to find even one solitary example of a publicly-supported stadium that helped local businesses).

8. “Transportation”
Didn’t we already cover this? Oh wait: “A train ride from Manhattan to Queens is much more realistic than one to Harrison.”
Actually, unless you live on the top of Grand Central Station, a train ride from Manhattan to Harrison is easier, faster, cheaper and more comfortable than one to Flushing, Queens (I really don’t think they’re going to build the stadium in Astoria or Long Island City). Whether that makes it realistic depends on your definition of the term. I suppose in Long Island they still view trains as some work of fiction.

9. “New York vs. New Jersey would make for a great rivalry”
Right, because when they put a second team in LA it turned into a huge rivalry between Chivas and the Galaxy. The current New York area MLS franchise already has a real rival though, based on actual history between the two teams: DC United. And MLS is trying to manufacture a second rivalry with Philadelphia.

Even so this argument is stupid. And not only because of the LA experiment. A rivalry between Toronto and Ottawa would surely be fierce, so should we put a team in Ottawa? What about New Orleans? They’d be a natural rival to Houston. Call it the Gulf of Mexico battle or something. Or what about Miami FC vs. Havana, Cuba? Now you’re talking rivalries! That would make the Old Firm look like a friendly.

10. “NYC does have a soccer tradition!”
Indeed it does. The Cosmos. Except wait: In their hayday, they played at Giants Stadium, which is not in New York City.

If you want to argue tradition, St. Louis is going to win this one, I’m afraid. The industrial parts of New Jersey, far more than NYC, was where soccer in the area first developed. And those areas are well represented by Harrison, thank you very much.

32 Comments For This Post

  1. Tony Says:

    Couldn't agree more. 1) New Jersey Nets will be playing in Brooklyn next year. We're one community. 2) There are books written about how poorly the Mets have been managed by that family. 3) Adding a El Paso team would do a lot more. 4) It's the author and his brother. 5) Fine. Have a team in Long Island. Just call them “Long Island.” 6) Whatevs. 7) Corporatism runs through sport; just because Red Bull openly admit this is not to be derided. Lying about and pretending you're the underdogs/home-style team (a la the Mets) is. 8) PATH is better than subway or LIRR. 9) Nope. New York and Philly or Boston. Will win every time. 10) Exacty right: in Giant's Stadium.

  2. Red Says:

    First off, the two Goal.com articles (pro and con) are disgraceful. Using any of them, from either side, to promote an agenda is embarrassing and dishonorable.

    I know very few people who claim Wilpon's interest as a reason to not support a NYC expansion side. I know even fewer that choose the whole “NJ” thing as a reason to not support the Red Bulls. However, I know many people who cannot get seriously involved with the Red Bulls because of the corporate affiliation and the team's place in the marketing department. Besides the other disgraceful Red Bull teams, there really isn't a fair comparison to Red Bull New York in Europe or Mexico. All these team were football clubs that originated within the company (PSV, Bayer, Cruz Azul). They didn't buyout an existing club. And even with the teams that were taken over, the dedicated fans almost always started a new team -as in the case of SV Salzburg. What is truly the honorable thing to do when Red Bull takes over your club? Sit back and take it and follow the corporate whore? Or fight back with resistance? I'll follow SV Salzburg and AFC Wimbledon, and feel content with my choice.

    If Wilpon took over the Red Bulls and rebranded them the Cosmos, I would be completely content. If they played in NJ for 100 years, I would be happy (I followed Metro passionately). Location is not the question. As long as I could identify with the club. But I can't.

    The population question is foolish indeed. The NYC metro area (an area that includes the half-million people that occupy Newark, Kearny, Hoboken and Jersey City) has 22,000,000 people. That's the entire country of The Netherlands and Denmark combined (do they have more than one team?). If done right, we could have 3 Sounders FCs.

    What I really think the issue is (more than any serious evidence) is that people who have invested their lives in a club that has used-and-abused them will most likely become the embarrassment of the league if the Cosmos do return. Are we talking about soccer here? Or is this personal?

  3. ASN Editorial Says:

    The Metrostars had a history of 10 years when Red Bull took over. Austria Salzburg was founded in the 1930s. Apples and oranges.

    Virtually every professional franchise in sports is supported by corporate whore-dom on some level. If you're going to be serious about “standing up to the man” you're going to have to stop watching sports altogether.

    Or is it a matter of degree? If so, where do you draw the line for what is acceptable and what isn't? With the naming of a franchise? If so, why there? You're going to have to explain this and in a way that can pass muster. It's a very slippery slope though, because like I said corporations are everywhere and not just in sports.

    I do think you might be onto something with this being a personal matter. But that goes both ways (Borough Boys and supporters of NYC2 and Red Bull lovers/NYC2 haters)

  4. a.k.a. Snugg Digemz Says:

    This may sound like I'm sipping that corporate kool-aid (or soda in this case) but this is my view on the whole naming thing:
    Red Bull is more than a piss tasting drink. Red Bull is a sports and entertainment organization. from their soccer clubs/academies, niche events such as flugtag/soap box derbies, NASCAR and F1 teams, support for many action sport athletes and competitions, support for musicians (Red Bull Music Academy)… the list goes on and on. My opinion is that Red Bull does this not just to promote their drinks, but also to do what ANY sports franchise owner (Wilpon) does: make money.

    To me “RB” is just the same as “FC” “SC” “SK” etc… it states that the NY/NJ metropolitan area MLS team is an extension of a global sporting and entertainment franchise. RB means that my MLS team is backed by pockets willing to do what it takes to win (i.e. Soler stating shortly after the new DP rule that RBNY will do it's best to bring in 2 more DPs).

    The cost of RBA could be used for about 5 minutes of Super Bowl commercial time, I really don't see RB going through the trouble of spending the money and resources to operate multiple soccer teams strictly to sell drinks.

    If ownership and names is an issue, I mean I'm a Knicks fan. 1, my team is named after boxer shorts 2, it's owned by a cable tv money hungry tycoon that does nothing to improve the cable tv product (my channel guide takes hours to load!).

    so what's in a name?

    but I agree, it's definitely personal at this point.

  5. Dave Wasser Says:

    Nathaniel:

    Generally speaking, your comments are correct. However, you are wrong on the subject of transportation. The PATH train isn't so convenient if you don't live near one of the stations. It only goes as far north as 32 st. on the west side of Manhattan. If you live on the east side of Manhattan, it is easier to get to Willets Pt. in Queens than to Harrison, NJ.

    Also, it isn't realistic to expect people to take both the LIRR and the PATH train to get to a game. The LIRR and PATH combined is at least an hour and a half. So you're looking at three hours of train rides for a two hour soccer match. Only the most die hard fans would be willing to do that.

    Dave

  6. Red Says:

    Regardless of everything, if we need to “prove something” to ourselves, isn't that answering the question for us? Isn't that saying that Red Bull has some subconscious affect on how we few the team, despite if we follow them or not? Are you personally trying to prove something to yourself by equating RB to FK or FC?

    Currently, I'm watching the Houston @ Salt Lake game on ESPN2. For a midweek game, the attendance is surprisingly good at Rio Tinto -something RBA wishes they could have. It appears that Salt Lake has accepted a team that coincidentally (as with RBNY) has one of the stupidest names in sports. But the difference between Salt Lake accepting Major League Soccer and New York City accepting Major League Soccer is that if NYC accepts the league, then the country accepts the league (being that MLS will have 3 Canadian teams, we can assume that Canada already accepts MLS).

    KEY POINT SO PAY ATTENTION: Garber knows this. Garber knows the value to the league when NYC begins to accept MLS. If you capture NYC, you capture the country. Every American has a secret inferiority complex with NYC, and just like the HS situation where you admire the cool kid, the country admires NYC. It is in the LEAGUE's best interest to capture NYC, and that is what Garber is trying to do. It's not about which city “deserves” a team…it's about the LEAGUE.

  7. a.k.a. Snugg Digemz Says:

    “Only the most die hard fans would be willing to do that.”

    I guess I'm die hard then

  8. PNBklyn Says:

    The writer seems to have convinced himself. Me, not so much. He says NY fans have a club to support,( the Red Bulls), so I guess we should all fall in line. I find it quite arrogant for him to tell us we are required to support a team in another state.

  9. ASN Editorial Says:

    Do you like the NFL? Do you have a favorite team?

  10. ASN Editorial Says:

    Actually I live on the East side of Manhattan and I think it takes about the same amount of time to get to Citi Field and Red Bull Arena (having now done both trips several times). It's true that connection to the PATH is limited to certain parts of Manhattan but it's also true that all those points have subway stops within a few feet.

    Not sure why it isn't realistic to ask people to take the LIRR and PATH. I take the MTA subway and the PATH. What, there's some kind of rule where you can only take one transit authority on any given trip?

    It would obviously depend on what parts of Long Island. I wouldn't expect somebody from Montauk to do the trip but for people from Nassau County it really isn't a huge deal.

  11. Dave Wasser Says:

    Getting to NYC from Nassau County isn't a quick trip. It's at least 45 minutes, sometimes an hour. Combine that with the PATH train and you're looking at an awfully long trip to get to a soccer match.

    I just don't expect many fans to spend three hours in trains to watch a two hour match. I am a huge soccer fan, and even I wouldn't bother going to a match if took a combined three hours of travel time.

  12. ASN Editorial Says:

    Well it can't be that long from all of Nassau County. But fair enough, point taken. Like I said somewhere else, there is indeed a large population of potential (key word) MLS fans from Queens and points northeast who are not being served by RBNY. But what would happen to the team's existing (small) clientele from Brooklyn and Manhattan? They'd probably all be lost to a team in Queens and frankly, I don't know if Red Bull would survive that. Especially if you consider all the corporate tickets and sponsors from Manhattan. That's why I have a hard time believing Red Bull is on board with this move. But that's another topic for another day.

  13. Dave Wasser Says:

    I agree with you. I don't think it is in Red Bull's interest to have a second team in NY. On the other hand, money talks. If a very wealthy person came along and offered to pay Red Bull a hefty sum (say, 50 million) for the right to operate a second team in the NY area, Red Bull might take that offer.

  14. PNBklyn Says:

    NYG

  15. ASN Editorial Says:

    Play in Jersey. You shouldn't support them.

  16. ASN Editorial Says:

    Wasn't there something about a clause in RB's agreement with MLS that they would in fact get reimbursed should there be a second team in NYC?

    It's entirely possible Don Garber pulled the part about RB supporting NYC2 out of his arse to get the ownership groups in Atlanta and St. Louis and wherever else to step to the plate. I know there is a lot of animosity between MLS and RB and I can see Garber doing this as a kind of “F U” to the Austrians or who knows maybe as a way to cajole them into talking with the press more than they have been.

    Okay now that's a little farfetched.

    Anyway back on topic, I think it's more realistic to put a team in Nassau County somewhere. Call them New York for all I care. This will give the folks in Long Island, Queens and Connecticut a team to support and you can still have this “rivalry” with RBNY. They could probably even play at Hofstra until a stadium is built.

  17. Dave Wasser Says:

    Where did you read that there is animosity between MLS and Red Bull? I haven't read that.

    As for the location of another MLS team, we can talk all we like about it, and it won't make a bit of difference. Whoever has the money to pay for the team and a new stadium will get to decide where to put them.

    Dave
    http://www.DaveBrett.com

  18. a.k.a. Snugg Digemz Says:

    I agree with the NYC thing for sure (being from NY, of course). Knicks are shit, yet they (alog with CHI, MIA, and LAC and thanks to Lebron of course) are a top story even when the playoffs are in full force.

    however as far as “proving something”, I would say it's more about “explaining” something. “Proving” to me has some sort of negative original conotation, as if I, the fan, am ashamed of the name and thus have to pat myself on the back and tell me that everything is ok. “Proving” to me sounds like what the loud mouth “experts” on Big Soccer do every day about their blind opinions for/against pro/rel, single table, attendence, etc… What I'm merely doing is explaing my opinion on my team's identity. If I was proving I would be the one posting first on this article saying, THIS IS OUR IDENTITY, EAT IT, OR DIE! or something of that nature, i dunno.

    and I think (again only opinion) this is what most fans feel, they go to the games because they feel the attachment and excitement, but have to explain to the general public the situation at hand since it is such an anomoly in American sports. for me, a lot of inital reactions to the name are greeted with a combination of disgust and confusion, so it's not a surprise that many fans would explain in a defensive manner, thus sounding like they need to prove themselves.

    either way, I can't force people to be fans, I can only invite my friends to games, explain why our team is named after an energy drink, and wish for the best. If they don't want to come back, then fine, I don't force my Mets fan friends to be Yankee fans just because of the Yankees' identity as the league's “evil empire”, instead I heckle them with a smile. I mean, it's JUST sports.

  19. a.k.a. Snugg Digemz Says:

    you know, I never realized my commute was longer than the match. I'm generally lazy, but even I wouldn't bother complaining about the travel time to watch sports live, for cheap, and in a great environment.

    if you forgo the PATH and just take NJ transit, you pay little more, but it gets you to the area in about 5 minutes with 10 minute walk passing by some bars and restaurants as opposed to 40 minutes with a 0 minute walk on the PATH.

    45-60 minutes is not that big a deal, bring a book, bring a friend and chat, find someone else with RBNY gear and try to strike conversation (I see PLENTY of fans every saturday on the way to the match on the hicksville line).

    for me it is not the commute time, it's just the price. I have a monthly LIRR pass, but if i didn't a single trip for the lirr alone would be around 12-15. if anything i'm not complaining about commute time being longer than the game, I'm complaining about the commute costing more than the game.

    Hey RBNY, how about a discount at the gate with receipt of LIRR or Metro North ticket?

  20. a.k.a. Snugg Digemz Says:

    whoops, did not mean to “like” this. a team in long island would tank. I would love for there to be a successful team here, but just look at the islanders… they're fighting NY2 for the same stadium spot! only good thing would be that since there's a lot of space, there'd most certainly be a big lot to tailgate in.

  21. a.k.a. Snugg Digemz Says:

    New York has a local team to support in the NFL, The Buffalo Bills! ( Central New York is still NY 😛 )

  22. soccer lou Says:

    Mr. Baker: Coming from you yeah i expect you not to like the move you work covering the Red Bulls but i tell you what i also notice that you don't know the area of city field of course is the house of the NYMets and they play baseball but right in front of the stadium is Flushing Meadow Park if you happen to visit the area you can only see soccer field everywhere and pack with people every weekend (of course when the wheather allows it). If we can get half of that people that goes to the park believe me when i said there would be no problem with attendance that's only the people from the area without those who may come from other parts of the city Tranportation please!! if it works for the mets i can work for a soccer team right behind it. Now if they take forever ala some team in NJ to put o good team on the filed yeah people is not going to go but if things go right from the beginning it 'll be all good bring it Red Bulls the real NYC derby it's about to start. Oh one more thing you can compare LA fans with NY fans dude they all soft that's why their clasico stinks with the passion that new yorkes love their team that's not going to happend.

  23. soccer lou Says:

    apples and oranges??
    different sport!!!!

  24. Dave Wasser Says:

    That's a good point. The cost of the LIRR is much more than the cost of the subway. That's another reason why it's not realistic to expect more than a few fans to take the LIRR to a game.

    At this point the prospect of a second NY soccer team depends what happens to the NY Islanders. The Wilpons have to decide between hockey and soccer.

  25. soccer lou Says:

    Mr. Baker: Coming from you yeah i expect you not to like the move you work covering the Red Bulls but i tell you what i also notice that you don't know the area of city field of course is the house of the NYMets and they play baseball but right in front of the stadium is Flushing Meadow Park if you happen to visit the area you can only see soccer field everywhere and pack with people every weekend (of course when the wheather allows it). If we can get half of that people that goes to the park believe me when i said there would be no problem with attendance that's only the people from the area without those who may come from other parts of the city Tranportation please!! if it works for the mets i can work for a soccer team right behind it. Now if they take forever ala some team in NJ to put o good team on the filed yeah people is not going to go but if things go right from the beginning it 'll be all good bring it Red Bulls the real NYC derby it's about to start. Oh one more thing you can compare LA fans with NY fans dude they all soft that's why their clasico stinks with the passion that new yorkes love their team that's not going to happend.

  26. soccer lou Says:

    apples and oranges??
    different sport!!!!

  27. Dave Wasser Says:

    That's a good point. The cost of the LIRR is much more than the cost of the subway. That's another reason why it's not realistic to expect more than a few fans to take the LIRR to a game.

    At this point the prospect of a second NY soccer team depends what happens to the NY Islanders. The Wilpons have to decide between hockey and soccer.

  28. Mls222 Says:

    ok then..disband the CHIVAS USA franchise cuz they are a waste of team

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