New Rival for Soccer’s Red Bulls

Article and Video by Kishan Singh

New Yorkers are used to and thrive on local rivalries – baseball’s Yankees and Mets, the NBA’s Nets and Knicks (however pathetic the Knicks are this season), the NFL’s Giants and Jets (ditto) and, and in the National Hockey League, the Rangers, Islanders and Devils. However, since its inception in 1996, only one soccer team has represented the New York area in Major League Soccer. Originally known as the New York/New Jersey Metro Stars, the team eventually evolved into what is now the New York Red Bulls – even though its home stadium is in Harrison, N.J. When the MLS season starts in March, the Red Bulls will be sharing their territory with the newly formed New York City Football Club.

The teams will meet on May 10, in Harrison.

The new team has already earned a great deal of publicity, because it is jointly owned by the New York Yankees and the renowned Manchester City Football Club, the current English Premier League champion. NYCFC was able to land two of the world’s best-known players, England’s Frank Lampard and Spain’s David Villa.

The Red Bulls are well established. Though the team has never won a major championship, it has a very recognizable brand, Red Bull, since it is partially owned by Red Bull GmbH, the Austrian company that sells the energy drink. This club is and was home to some of the world’s most famous players including Thierry Henry, the French forward who has played at some of Europe’s largest clubs. Currently playing for the Red Bull is Australia’s leading scorer, Tim Cahill, and Bradley Wright-Phillips of England, who led the MLS in scoring last season.

So will NYCFC be able to gain a fan base in what has been Red Bulls territory?

Being in the Bronx will certainly make the team easy to visit. And its big names are sure to help.

“NYCFC is getting Frank Lampard and David Villa, big-name players, to attract a lot of people, and in the New York market you need to get big-name players that people will recognize,” said Brad Hill, an avid Red Bulls supporter.The Lampard deal has been something of an embarrassment for the new team; after a good deal of publicity about Lampard’s arrival, the player said at year-end that he would finish the English season with Manchester City and join NYCFC only then, in June, not for the season’s start, as anticipated.

“I feel like the Red Bulls are more of a New Jersey-based club; a lot of the fans seems to be from there.”

Paul Brooks, a former player for the New England Revolution and coach at New York Soccer Club, said, “Logistically, it is easier to be a NYCFC fan; they are signing some big-name players, but I just hope that they will reach out to the local product of players, and mix them in with the high-profile professionals.”

Will the two star players be enough?

The MLS has a salary cap that limits a team’s total salary, the idea being to keep wealthier teams from outspending the less wealthy. “MLS is tough,” said Jason Puckett, a devoted Red Bull supporter. “You can only have three players above the salary threshold, so you can’t come in and buy the MLS championship.”