The New York soccer landscape had such promise for this season late into the playoff push last season. As it stood in early November, the New York Red Bulls was slaying demon after demon and making a deep run into the playoffs, New York City FC was making splashy signings left and right, and ticket sales weren’t slowing down, and the New York Cosmos seemed hot on the tails of players who seemed to be big fish for second division American soccer.
As the offseason came, however, bombshell after bombshell landed for the Red Bulls and NYCFC, and all that we as New York sports fans see are the problems inherent in the teams we claim to support. Below is a summary of the current, broken state of the New York soccer landscape.
Red Bull, as an ownership group, does not understand the importance of supporters, and chooses to gamble with their loyalty in a quest for some unknown goal decided behind closed doors in Austria. Perhaps (hopefully), the ownership hopes to accrue value in order to sell the team, at the lowest cost to the front office possible, resulting in stingy funding for a behemoth structure supporting two full rosters and facilities worthy of many European teams.
More likely, the blasphemous decisions of Red Bull have been the latest stage in an international dick waving contest between absentee owners.
Across town, an equally misguided ownership group has begun attempting to wrest control off the New York Market from the void left by the Red Bull project. Currently, this void is filled with eurosnobs, a lackadaisical marketing group in Harrison, and a sub-par product on the field from Long Island. The Cosmos, to a greater extent than any other NASL team, exist to inflate the hubris of a league which refuses to accept its second division status- an insult to the club’s supporters who deserve a realistic front office.
New York City FC was created to pry the New York soccer landscape from the fingers of Saturday morning supporters – day drinkers who prefer to cheer at the television than attend an actual game. Eurosnobbery is rampant in New York, and this is a huge reason that New York is considered to be such a huge untapped market.
The Red Bulls, after twenty years, has been relatively unsuccessful (for want of trying) to make a dent in the ranks of the eurosnobs, as have the Cosmos. While the Red Bulls have picked up their own perpetual momentum, gaining fans organically while not targeting a specific market, Cosmos have specifically focused on the nostalgia of a retro brand to bring around the soccer fans of yesteryear, and inspire the hipster nation of Brooklyn to support a club with history, much like the Timbers have been able to do in Portland.
Instead, the product we’ve been given was an aggressive marketing campaign in the first year of the club’s existence backed by a septuagenarian from the NASL past, and empty lacrosse stadiums filled only partially by the Borough Boys and Barra del Cosmos.
City has been equally unsuccessful in tapping the eurosnob market, as became evident at this year’s super draft. Although the Third Rail appears to be a large supporters group, quantity does not equal quality, as the majority of their supporters seem unsure of what to do with themselves, and organizing songs and cheers seems much more difficult than it should be for supporters.
This may be due to the breakdown of their supporters. While they do have certain offshoots of former Red Bulls “supporters,” these are truly not supporters at all, as any true supporter knows that you do not abandon the team you love for a shiny new toy. The rest of their supporters can be forgiven for being unsure of how to support, as all of their experience with soccer comes from the world cup, and good on them for entering the realm of club soccer.
The Red Bulls is not without sin either. While the club has some of the oldest and loudest supporters groups in New York, the supporter groups can not seem to ever stop bickering amongst themselves, preventing them from truly making a difference in their revolt against the front office. And this is where the call to arms must be sounded. Supporters, this is your city, these are your clubs.
You deserve the greatest clubs in the world in the greatest city in the world, but to have that, the support has to be strong, and be unified. As much as the Red Bulls and the Cosmos and NYCFC will hate each other and love to beat the cr** out of each other, the best thing that can happen for soccer in this city is strong support for every club.
Every supporter has a responsibility to his club and to his supporters group to support his club in full voice, and to grow his supporters group. Introduce your friends and your family to the soccer world. Become informed about the goings on of your team and other teams in the area. Change happens when the informed majority causes change, but the informed majority must exist before that change can happen.