Friday, June 01, 2007

Is a second MLS team in New York the answer?

One of the reasons I've been looking at attendance numbers so much this week is due to Eric Wynalda mentioning the idea of moving a second team into the New York scene as the answer to the Red Bulls lack of fans.

On the surface, I can see his point. Having a derby would build excitement, as both teams' fans would come out. It can also help build a narrative in local press coverage and, with two teams, there is a better chance of the city having at least one club doing well. However, if people are not supporting the team they already have, how is introducing a second one going to help?

It is true that the team from New York has suffered under mismanagement for a large portion of their history, but when Red Bull came in, many hoped they would be able to reboot the whole system. So far, that has happened on the pitch, but is missing in the stands. I do not live in the New York market, but from what I've heard from fans, the marketing effort has been next to none.

There are thousands of soccer fans in and around New York, so it does seem a little odd that they cannot draw better numbers. Perhaps all the years of bad performance have eroded support to the point that even a good team cannot make these people notice. If so, perhaps the thought is a totally new team is the best way to capture this audience.

But the problem would be selling a new team to a base that has already been burned once by the league. To do this, they would have to distance themselves from the mistakes of the past with the biggest of all being no games at Giants Stadium. It would also seem like a good idea to find a home in New York, but to do that, there would need to be a lot of cash involved. Then there is the play on the field. Chances are a club would get a year or two to sort things out, but if by year three they were not challenging, fans would start walking away.

But even if they did all this, the idea still might not hook people. But what if the league went another way with a new club, one that could guarantee some news coverage and get at least a few of the skeptics to give it a chance? What if MLS welcomed the New York Cosmos to the league?

Fairly or not, the Cosmos are the symbol of NASL, which means they have the shine of Pele and the boys as well as the tarnish of the league's collapse. That said, if done right, it could provide a very interesting subplot for the league as a whole and the New York scene specifically. Red Bull-Cosmo matches could be sold as new style vs. old grace.

I don't believe that the Cosmos have such a legend that their name alone would keep fans, however if the play of the league as well as the Red Bulls is strong, it might cause more then a few of the casual fans that come out because of the past to return.

To do something like this, MLS and Cosmos rights owner Peppe Pinton would have to resolve some issues, but I'm guessing that if there was support (ie a good investor), it could happen.

I still don't know if a second team in New York, much less the Cosmos, is the best answer to this problem. Perhaps a new soccer specific stadium along with better play will be enough to turn the tide over time. All I know is that right now the league as a whole is missing out on a lot of possible money and media attention by having such a bad situation in the nation's biggest city.

So what do you think? Why not take a poll and let everyone know.

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Blogger paul said...

I can't wait to support a New York club, but never, never will I support one which disgraces the city with a cheap brand-name masquerading as a club name. A club's name should ideally never change. In 100 years, no one will remember power drinks. That may sound like a lame reason, but for many of us it's perfectly legitimate. Glory, glory New York F.C. (or anything but MetroSprite, etc)

10:36 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Paul, have you ever heard of Bayer Leverkusen?

2:28 AM  

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