Ever since the inaugural season of Major League Soccer, the league has sought the right opportunity to put a second team in New York.
On Tuesday, MLS announced that New York City FC will become the league’s 20th team in 2015, with an ownership group that includes Manchester City and the New York Yankees.
It was a move that has an impact around MLS and Sounders FC owner and general manager Adrian Hanauer expressed enthusiasm for the league’s latest addition.
“It’s exciting. It’s a massive market. You could argue it’s the most important market on the planet,” Hanauer said on Tuesday. “It’s just another of those stepping stones along the way in the development of Major League Soccer.”
While the addition of New York City Football Club rounds out the league’s clubs at 20, Hanauer does not think that it will be the last domino to fall in the ever-growing league that blossomed from 12 teams in 2006 to 19 teams in 2012. Through those expansions, the league added three Canadian clubs - harnessing the massive support for the sport in the Pacific Northwest - returned to a popular market in San Jose and added a club in another large market in Philadelphia.
That successful growth has spurred on talks of demand in further markets, such as Phoenix, San Antonio, Minnesota, Orlando, Miami, Atlanta and others around the country. And while the league has reached levels at speeds that even its owners didn’t anticipate, they are certainly not complacent.
“I don’t anticipate that 20 is the end of the story. How and when the next expansion happens, I couldn’t say, but there are certainly a lot of big, important markets left in this country,” Hanauer said. “The league is past where many of us envisioned in five, six or seven years ago. Certainly getting into the southeast is another step along the way. It’s clear that there is a big fan opportunity and a big television opportunity that just doesn’t exist today.”
In addition to the opportunities presented by the ownership group and the expansion into Queens, the addition will also create new rivalries in a highly visible market. And if there is one thing that has been proven in New York, it is that two teams can compete for fans and advertisers in the market. In the National Football League, the Jets and Giants have thrived together. The Yankees and Mets are two of the premier clubs in Major League Baseball. In the National Hockey League, the Islanders, Rangers and New Jersey Devils have all had success. And in the National Basketball Association, the Brooklyn Nets are now competing with the historic New York Knicks.
“Rivalries are really important in all pro sports,” Hanauer said. “New York has the ability to be a monster of a rivalry town.”
On Wednesday, New York City FC made its first club announcement, hiring US Soccer and Manchester City legend Claudio Reyna as director of football. It is just the first of what is sure to be many major announcements from Major League Soccer’s newest club.