The New York sporting landscape is riddled with inter-state rivalries, from the Knicks and Nets to the Yankees and Mets, Giants and Jets. New York is among a select few cities that have the population, economic means and sporting intrigue to support multiple teams in a single sport, a fact that was not lost upon the brass at Manchester City, an elite team in England’s Premier League.
Manchester City partnered with another of the world’s most successful and prominent sporting clubs, the New York Yankees, to make the expansion club, NYCFC (New York City Football Club), Major League Soccer’s 20th of 21 clubs.
NYCFC will now share the City (technically) with the New York Red Bulls, who are actually based in New Jersey, but have plied their trade in the MLS since 1995. NYCFC’s Chief Business Officer, Tim Pernetti, identified the challenges that abound in penetrating the New York market, including “competing with a lot of other things”, but the board is “very pleased with the direction they are headed”, having sold more than 11,000 season ticket packages before the team has even played a game in its temporary home, Yankee Stadium.
The 11,000 season- tickets sold to this point, months before the team’s debut, is impressive considering the fact that New York Red Bulls drew an average of 19,000 fans per game, having sold only 7,500 season ticket packages ahead of their successful season. One of the “premier” challenges of creating a solid identity for NYCFC will be differentiating the MLS side from the sister-club and global soccer power that is Manchester City, especially now that NYCFC’s jersey has been debuted, bearing a striking resemblance to that of the “sky blues” that have reigned supreme over England’s top league two of the past three years.
Manchester United (NYSE: MANU) CEO Sees Soccer’s Evolution Away From “Niche Sport” Status
Soccer has, historically, been a “niche sport” in America, lagging behind well-entrenched pastimes like the MLB and the NFL in terms of dollars and overall popularity. United’s CEO highlighted the fact that the younger demographic of American sports fans are increasingly playing soccer-related video games, like FIFA and keeping tabs on individual players on a far greater basis.
The bullishness on soccer’s American prospects has been reinforced by an ESPN Sports poll that indicated that soccer and baseball have the same number, 18%, of total 12-18 year olds that consider themselves “avid fans” of the sports. Sports Economist, John Vrooman, highlights that American interest in soccer peaks during and directly after the world cup, so NYCFC is well-positioned to capitalize on American soccer-fever after this summer’s World Cup in Brazil generated some of the largest viewing audiences of any television program in 2014. Time will tell if New Yorkers are ready to embrace the sport on a larger scale, but a healthy rivalry between New York’s two soccer clubs will go a long way in creating sustainable interest and a unique identity from that of Manchester City.