With MLS seeking again to swell its ranks, the discussion has seemingly moved from where the next franchise will be located – New York City – and onto whom is best positioned to own and run such an enterprise.
It has emerged that Manchester City’s flush-with owners are interested in soldering together this prometheus, appropriately based in the borough of Flushing. The new team would serve twin purposes of generating talent for its parent club and increasing City’s brand recognition in the ever-expanding US market.
City’s expansion into the US market seems to have been received positively by fans of MLS as well as Don Garber, as well it should. The league was recently judged the seventh-most attended on the planet, as has begun regularly producing players of true quality and an open gateway to Europe could provide more exposure in a nation where football highlights rarely make Sportscenter.
Close ties between are commonplace within countries, or continents even - Manchester United have had a longstanding relationship with Belgian club Royal Antwerp. More recently – and perhaps more similarly as well – the Pozzo family has expanded from their black-and-white binding fiefdoms at Udinese to annex clubs in Spain and England, using them to develop players that they can then either use or sell, usually with a significant sticker price increase.
Any concerns MLS fans have about being home to “feeder” clubs can be assuaged by investigating the benefits of and exposure that having Sheikh Mansour involved in American sport would deliver.
Setting up an expansion franchise, youth academy and building a stadium in the real-estate mire of NYC will cost a bucketful. Such hard costs coupled with the expense of bringing in players might intimidate a new ownership group and delay fan aggregation – we all love a winner. Not only would the New York Blues have the opportunity to raid the Sky Blues for loan players, but also the backing to deliver some of the country’s most promising young talent. They have more money to spend at chiseling out market share than could possibly be needed, no small feat in the City that Never Sleeps.
And perhaps the greatest benefit of all might come from the increased visibility. The popularity of the English game transcends that of all other major leagues (with the exception of two notable Spanish clubs) and the Citizens’ five-year spending spree has ensured their position at that league’s apex until their patriarch suffers from a case of terminal boredom.
Links with a league as outgoing as the English Premiership should be actively encouraged.
It is a fundamental truth of business that if a superwealthy investor shows interest in your product, you’re doing something very right or very wrong. Another reality is that you generally look to involve these multi-multi-multi-billionaires wherever possible, as long as it doesn’t put you out too much – having capital in the bank never hurts. The continued growth of MLS suggests that Sheikh Mansour bin Zayed al Nahyan’s interest isn’t hostile; if the feelers he is putting out are genuine, rest assured that Garber et al will move heaven and earth to make him a part of the league.