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ASN Weekly Debate

Will New York's Second MLS Team Be a Success?

Carlos Tevez is not coming to New York City but Manchester City is. And the New York Yankees will provide assistance. Slam dunk, right? Well, maybe not. Our heroes debate success, failure, and mixed metaphors.
BY Noah Davis and Ryan O'Hanlon Posted
May 24, 2013
1:00 PM
Noah Davis: Okay, O'Hanlon. Let's talk New York City Football Club. You wrote a smart piece arguing that it might not catch on or be a big deal or something. I don't know; it was a lot of words. Give me the short version of your argument.

Ryan O'Hanlon: Which you helped me with! If I worked for the NYT Magazine, your name would've been on the bottom—but I don't. Anyway, I don't think it's a sure thing that this team is going to be a success just because this team is in New York. NY's soccer culture is weird and varied and spread out, and I'm not sure they'll rally around an MLS team. Not saying they won't, but I'm skeptical.

Davis: If you worked for NYT Magazine, I hope you wouldn't be wasting your time with this silly weekly ritual. I'd just be arguing with myself. I agree with you that the team isn't a guaranteed success, but nothing ever is. And I think MLS actually doesn't get enough credit for the excellent job it has done expanding. Don Garber and the gang have gotten things wrong, but it's hard to argue that they haven't gotten good at expansion. Then again, one of the reasons they've gotten so good is because they have realized that they need to go into places with existing fanbases, which, of course as you note, is not New York. And we're back at the beginning. See, I can argue with myself. Here's a question: How do we define "success" of NYC2?

O'Hanlon: Agreed on expansion. The last handful have all been spot-on, but this is different, so success is maybe a little bit different, too? Or, at least, it's easy to judge "success" unfairly in New York. Success? A well-received, easy-access stadium, a consistent fanbase, on-field consistency, and a tiny bit of unmeasurable "buzz" in the city. Or: Not the Red Bulls. #zing

Davis: Cool hashtag. But I guess that's sort of my point: The bar for success is so low I'm not sure how any team would fail to clear it even by accident. Much less a team backed by some combination of Manchester City/the Yankees/Satan/Jesus/Carlos Tevez. If the question is "will this team have David Beckham-level impact?" then I can see your point. But that doesn't seem to be what you/others are expecting. Maybe people should, though.

O'Hanlon: I don't know? Is there even another Beckham-style thing for MLS to experience? Like, even if a team wins the Club World Cup—is that what they call it?—it won't make Beckham-type waves. Could this team do something like that? It's hard for me to see it.

Davis: Okay, maybe not a BLE (Beckham Level Event) but maybe the expectation should be that NYC2—I'm refusing to call this team NYCFC or NYC FC because it's dumb—make a Seattle- or Portland-level impact.

O'Hanlon: I don't think it's possible just because New York is so goddamn big. And I guess, maybe, I'm used to NYers being grumpy and not having successful teams to root for, so I can't picture—or at least, it's not easy for me to picture—the psychotic, every-game-sells-out atmospheres around both of those teams. Also: I am one of those "NYers."

Davis: But it's not just about New York. It's about the whole league. NYC2 doesn't need to take over the city because nothing stops this place, but this is the center of the country and having a beautiful, full stadium could make for compelling TV.

O'Hanlon: I agree, but isn't the impact of Seattle and Portland so big because it's such a big deal for both of those places? That's why, I think, "success" has a different definition for NYC2. But I understand what you're saying, which is good for the purposes of us communicating with each other. So, MLS has done a great job, slowly expanding, but not having a successful team in New York has always been the two bulls head-butting each other in the room, and so having a quality team with quality support and a nice stadium in New York seems like the next big step, or one of the next big steps, for the league to take.

Davis: Right. We are dancing around the issue. Do you think this is going to work or not? Or are you somewhere in the middle, just like normal?

O'Hanlon: I really don't know. I get that the Red Bulls are in NJ—and did everything else wrong—but it scares me that no one really gives a [redacted due to the virgin ears of our readers] about them. If I must answer: Yes, it'll be a well-run, functional soccer franchise in New York City, which, like we just said, is a success. The Yankees know what they're doing, and Man City—for the ridiculous money they spend—are pretty advanced in how they actually look at the sport and how they run a team.

Davis: I think that's a pretty smart take. And the good news is that we only have to wait 18 months for the exciting answer.

Noah Davis and Ryan O'Hanlon do this every week. They are the best.

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