COMMENTARY | It's been a rather eventful month for professional soccer in the New York City region. The fun began back on May 21, when it was announced that English Premier League side Manchester City and the New York Yankees had come together to form New York City Football Club, which will join Major League Soccer as the league's 20th franchise in 2015. That press conference and the subsequent public events involving MCFC and Chelsea (those two teams were in New York to promote a friendly that was played at Yankee Stadium on May 25) were covered by area television stations and on newspaper websites.
Pro soccer was again spotlighted by the New York media on June 4 when North American Soccer League outfit New York Cosmos unveiled that Emirates Airline will be the club's shirt sponsor. That announcement also served as the team's unofficial/kind of official relaunch. The Cosmos will make their meaningful return to the pitch this coming summer.
Meanwhile, off in the distant land of Harrison, NJ are the New York Red Bulls. You may remember the Red Bulls. They're the NYC/NJ area's lone team that is currently playing in this country's top-flight league. New York happen to be doing quite well as summer 2013 approaches. They sit in second place in the MLS East table, and they are well on their way toward competing in the postseason tournament that will determine this season's MLS champion.
Unlike the previously mentioned NY clubs that won't play a single MLS match in 2013, the Red Bulls seemingly can't buy any significant coverage from local news outlets. The final scores of their league matches are sometimes mentioned during weekend updates on sports radio station WFAN, you have to go out of your way to navigate to pages that contain a RBNY story or two on websites such as NJ.com, and I'm not convinced that New York hoisting the MLS Cup would earn them a mention on the back page of the NY Post.
The Red Bulls are practically anonymous when it comes to noteworthy New York media. Those who live a short drive or train ride away from Red Bull Arena only know about the club if they put in the effort to do so. That NYCFC and the Cosmos are "new toys" for the press and also for fans is not lost on me. When you compare those two franchises with their NJ counterpart, however, you see that RBNY deserve at least a little more respect.
Neither the Cosmos nor NYCFC have a single player who is recognizable to a single non-MLS or non-NASL fan. Heck, Man City's MLS infant doesn't even have a roster, as that club won't begin league play until 2015. The likes of Juninho, Tim Cahill and Thierry Henry feature for the Red Bulls on a weekly basis. Henry, arguably the greatest player of his generation and probably the most talented footballer to ever play in MLS during the league's first two decades of existence, produces moments such as this and this while wearing New York red despite being in the twilight of his career.
NYCFC have no home as of the posting of this piece. The Cosmos will play at Hofstra University's Shuart Stadium beginning in August. All due respect to the parties involved, but that particular venue is fine for a NASL team. Red Bull Arena is maybe the nicest outdoor sports venue in the region, one accessible via multiple modes of public transportation regardless of where you are beginning your journey out to Harrison.
Strip away the historic name and those Pele public appearances that will eventually stop being a draw, and the Cosmos are minor league. This isn't a knock on that organization in any way. The NASL is Division II. It's Triple-A baseball. There are annual high school basketball tournaments that occur in New York and New Jersey that are bigger events than will be any single Cosmos home game that takes place in the next calendar year.
It's an exciting time to be a soccer fan who lives in and around New York City. Two new pro teams are going to debut between now and March 2015, and several international contests will take place in the Bronx, in Queens, at Red Bull Arena and at MetLife Stadium over the next couple of years. Only one "New York team," the Red Bulls, will have opportunities to lift North America's top club soccer trophy, the MLS Cup, in the next 18 months.
That fact alone makes them the sport's top show in town for now.
Zac has been covering New York Red Bulls, Major League Soccer, Tottenham Hotspur, the USMNT and other soccer leagues for Yahoo! Sports since 2010.
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