May 25, 2013
Going for gold
It appears that a Golden Age is approaching that should make New York one of the great soccer cities in the world.
The announcement this week that Manchester City is teaming with the New York Yankees to start New York City Football Club is only part of the equation. The newly reborn New York Cosmos will kick off in August in the North American Soccer League, and the New York Red Bulls are off to as good a start as they’ve had in their history.
Yes, the Cosmos play in a lesser league, but don’t let that fool you. Their ambitions are major league, if not Major League Soccer. That is clearly evident by the plans for their stadium near Belmont Park.
Those plans and the struggles MLS has been having in advancing their plan for a soccer stadium in Flushing Meadow-Corona Park, probably led to this week’s announcement of the Man City-Yankees partnership.
Look at how the landscape has changed. All along MLS has said it would get a stadium deal done, then decide on an owner for the second New York team, which would start in 2016 -- an owner willing to spend not only a whopping $100 million for the franchise fee, but also the cost of building the stadium and starting a new soccer club.
Instead, they have announced the ownership, decided the team can play in a temporary venue for what will likely be two years, starting in 2015, then get a stadium deal done, perhaps somewhere other than Flushing.
Why? The league could not risk waiting for the Cosmos to have shovels in the ground on their stadium before getting their own deal done. It’s a smart move by the league, and might actually be a good one for soccer in the New York area.
We’re not sure the Cosmos have the same deep pockets behind them that NYC FC has with Sheik Mansour bin Zayed al-Nahyan of the United Arab Emirates, a member of Abu Dhabi's royal family, but the club clearly has deep pockets with its Saudi backing.
The Cosmos already have committed to putting $400,000 into the Mitchel Field Complex, making it their official training site. They are already a step ahead of the Red Bulls in that regard.
The sketches for their proposed 25,000-seat stadium and $400 million development at Belmont Park look absolutely fabulous, and if they indeed have the ability to get that project done, it’s no wonder MLS wanted to have it roots established with its second New York team.
As far as the Cosmos being in a second tier, well, even the league’s commissioner, Bill Peterson, in an interview with BigAppleSoccer.com earlier this year, said that status doesn’t hamper the league’s aspirations.
"We're comfortable with the designation," said Peterson. "And that's what it is, a designation from U.S. Soccer. We're comfortable with that designation. But that designation really doesn't limit us from being as good as we can possible be. We could have a stadium with 60,000 people in it and they can call us whatever they want, and we'll be ok with that.
"I understand from a traditional standpoint why they might do that. I understand why we are called second division now. What I want I want to make sure our people understand is that doesn’t limit us in any way from being successful."
The question is, is New York capable of and ready to support three professional soccer teams with big aspirations?
MLS Commissioner Don Garber perhaps answered that question with his response to whether the area can support two teams.
“There's more than enough people to be fans of both teams,” Garber said. “There's 19 and half million people in this region. We have lots of fans for the Red Bulls, but we don’t have 19 million fans, so I think there is more than enough people who can be either excited about being fans of both clubs or be converted from perhaps following another team from around the world to be a fan of one or both of those teams.
So look at what that means for New York soccer. You have the established Red Bulls, who certainly have not shied away from spending money on players, and who play in a jewel of a stadium in Harrison, NJ. You have the Yankees and Man City, who are tops in spending in their respective leagues and who know how to do things big time, and you have the Cosmos, who have the legacy and tradition of putting the best on the field playing in a league that seems to have world-class ambitions.
We’re embarking on a Golden Age of soccer indeed.