Philadelphia, PA (Sports Network) - Major League Soccer continues to grow, and
the activity in the Pacific Northwest can be viewed as a microcosm for the
recent success in America's top flight.
Seattle Sounders FC, Vancouver Whitecaps FC and the Portland Timbers all have
come into the league since 2009 and become model franchises. Consistent
sellouts have led to each club receiving as much publicity surrounding the
atmosphere at their respective home stadiums as they garner for their play on
A large part of what helped these clubs become instantaneous hits in MLS was
the history they each brought into the league. The Sounders, Whitecaps and
Timbers were woven into the fabric of North American soccer through their
stints in the North American Soccer League in the 1970s and '80s, and they
each had a vested interest from nostalgic fans that dates back several
With MLS plotting a second New York franchise to rival Red Bull New York for
some time, it widely was expected that the New York Cosmos, North America's
most glamorous and arguably most successful soccer franchise, would fill that
But the league's discussions with the Cosmos stalled, and MLS Commissioner Don
Garber kick-started the expansion vehicle on Tuesday by announcing the next
team would be named New York City Football Club.
It was not a tremendous surprise as several outlets had leaked the news of
Manchester City purchasing the rights to the impending New York expansion
side, but what came at a great shock was the involvement of the New York
Yankees, who joined the English Premier League giants in acquiring the rights.
Under normal circumstances, this would seem like a match made in heaven. It
seems logical to pair the footballing expertise and vast fortunes of
Manchester City with the Yankees' exalted brand equity and in-depth knowledge
of the metropolitan New York marketplace.
"Obviously, we're here. We have a network," Yankees president Randy Levine
said in a teleconference on Tuesday. "We haven't even gotten into it, but
maybe New York City Football Club (will be) on the YES Network. We know how to
operate a franchise in this area. We know how to market and gain sponsors -
I'm sure there will be an opportunity between Manchester City's sponsors and
supporters, and ours, to possibly do some cross-pollination.
"I think it's great. But Manchester City has the same philosophy as us. This
is about the sport, it's about putting (together) a championship-quality
soccer team for the fans of New York."
But what if the team is not successful in the early stages? An expansion team
only gets one shot a first impression, unless, of course, it involves a brand
that has a high level of equity.
That is why the trend of re-introducing expansion sides with past identities
has been so successful for MLS in recent years. The DNA of the Timbers,
Whitecaps and Sounders is woven heavily into the people of Portland, Vancouver
and Seattle, respectively.
The same could have been said of the Cosmos and New York, had discussions
between the club and MLS not fallen apart.
Instead, New York City Football Club will be starting from scratch in terms of
developing a fan base and assembling a roster. But should the team flounder
early on like Toronto FC, then the seats at the club's impending stadium
(details of which have yet to be finalized) quickly will turn vacant.
New York City FC has the potential to succeed and become a soccer power in
MLS. But the expansion plan in place is simply a gamble given how successful
the blueprint laid out by clubs in the Pacific Northwest has been.
The Sports Network