Soccer in New York: Assessing the power of the Red Bulls and NYCFC to join NYC royalty

ORLANDO, FL - MARCH 05: The starting lineup for New York City FC is seen during a MLS soccer match between New York City FC and Orlando City SC at the Orlando City Stadium on March 5, 2017 in Orlando, Florida. (Photo by Alex Menendez/Getty Images)
ORLANDO, FL - MARCH 05: The starting lineup for New York City FC is seen during a MLS soccer match between New York City FC and Orlando City SC at the Orlando City Stadium on March 5, 2017 in Orlando, Florida. (Photo by Alex Menendez/Getty Images) /

Soccer and New York sports fans are a natural pairing because the precedent has been set for both NY-NJ MLS clubs to integrate into part of the city’s sports culture.

There is no denying that soccer fans are passionate and uniquely almost exclusively die-hard. What I am about to say and analyze in by no means is saying the Red Bulls and NYCFC are irrelevant.

I’m not trying to be bashful either.

However, it is obvious that the MLS is far from immensely popular in the New York City market. It is a young and still emerging league with a lot of work to do to keep up with its “big four” counterparts.

The bad news is that right now MLS might not even be the most popular soccer league in the US. It is the highest level league but is still arguably not more popular than European leagues.

It is, however, constantly expanding. New teams from Atlanta, Orlando, another in LA. David Beckham seems to finally be getting his Miami team. Every big market wants in on an MLS soccer team.

But, New York has set a precedent for the Red Bulls and City Club to work their way into the sports culture of the New York Metropolitan market.

Right now, soccer might be at an all-time low in this country. The women’s World Cup victory seems like forever ago and the men’s team remains an international laughing-stock. They didn’t even qualify for the 2018 World Cup.

Soccer prodigy Christian Pulisic, who might already be the best US soccer player, is in Germany playing in the Bundesliga. He is more of a household name in Germany than he is in his own country.

He probably won’t touch the MLS anytime soon. It’ll be like what his successor Landon Donovan did; establish skill in Europe, play for the US internationally, then play for a big market in the MLS late in his career.

So, how does all this help the MLS? Because right now it is the best soccer we have. There’s no men’s team to root for this summer.

Much like we all do for our hockey, football, and basketball teams, pick a hometown team and jump aboard. That has to be the pride of the market right now in terms of soccer.

European leagues might be miles ahead in terms of the quality of soccer but is it really more fun rooting for a team a half a world away over one that plays in Yankee Stadium or in Harrison NJ?

I’m not saying David Villa and Bradley Wright-Phillips need to be household names in New York but it is easy to incorporate America’s top soccer league into these markets.

Look at it this way: NYCFC and the Red Bulls are just like the Mets and Yankees or the Jets and Giants.

Yeah, both soccer squads are different and both have rich ownership but let’s look at it this way, even if it’s just for fun.

NYCFC can be like the Yankees. They play in Yankee Stadium (for now). Yeah, they were established much later but they are still owned by sports powerhouses. Manchester City is owned by the same group who own a majority of NYCFC.

Man City is well on its way to winning the most watched sports league in the world. NYCFC is also owned by the Yankee Global Enterprises.

They are owned by the Yankees essentially (only 20%). We can all look at them as the “big brother”. They have the potential to build a giant in the MLS.

The affiliation with the Yankees and bigger social media following lines up perfectly with the Yankees, Rangers, Knicks, etc. approaches perfectly.

The Red Bulls were established earlier and have been a little more successful.

But, they can still be looked at as the “little brother”  because they play in New Jersey. They’re also not named after the city and they’re not owned by huge money clubs like the Yankees.

Both teams can thrive in the New York market. Both can build their own different and unique fan bases.

More from Empire Writes Back

Soccer is different from the “big four” leagues but it’s still fun to look at these teams this way. They are already rivals. The “Hudson River Derby” is comparable to the Subway Series and the Islanders-Rangers rivalry.

So, although the MLS might be a while before it becomes a world-class league, as Americans and New York sports enthusiasts, there is plenty of room for these MLS squads to work into the culture.

The United States men’s club won’t be in the World Cup until at least 2022. So this summer, if you don’t already, in lieu of US fan-hood, show some market fan-hood. Root for whichever one of these clubs represents you best.

Are you an Isles and Jets fan? Maybe the Red Bulls are your team. A Yankee and Giants fan? Then NYCFC has the potential to be as polarizing as them.

Next: Former New York Giants we would love to see in the XFL

MLS is soccer. Soccer is the world’s most popular sport. Let’s have it be a regular part of one of the world’s greatest cities.

The precedent exists. There is an underdog and a juggernaut. Two teams. One sport. One city. We have done this all before.