NE W JERSE Y MONTHLY March 2015 33
The move to Harrison was part of
a league-wide push to place teams in
soccer-only facilities, typically located
in struggling suburban towns looking
for an anchor to drive development.
From 2006 to 2008, three other MLS
teams—the Chicago Fire, the Colorado
Rapids and the Philadelphia Union—
moved to the ’burbs. The insistence on
soccer-only stadiums faltered in 2013,
however, when the owners of English
Premier League powerhouse Manchester City F.C. offered the MLS $100 million for an expansion franchise in New
York—even if the club had to play its
home games for the foreseeable future
at Yankee Stadium.
The exact impact of the new team,
New York City F.C., on tristate soccer fandom is uncertain. “We’re firm
believers that rivalries in all sports are
what help drive popularity,” says Dan
Courtemanche, an MLS vice president.
Marc de Grandpre, general manager
for the Red Bulls, adds, “I think the pie
is big enough for two teams.” He notes
that Red Bulls’ season tickets for the
2015 season, which starts March 8, are
being renewed at a record pace.
Dave Martinez, who writes the
Empire of Soccer blog, has a different
view. “If you’re loyal to a team, it’s going
to take more than a shiny new toy in
the playpen to take you away,” he says.
However, he expects the Bronx-based
team to make a strong promotional push,
backed by the advertising reach of the
New York Yankees, who are 20 percent
owners of the new team. “When it comes
to marketing, NYC F.C. is going to kill
them,” says Martinez.
IT’S AN ESPECIALLY TRICKY MOMENT
for the Red Bulls to be facing a new
rival. Though the team is coming off two
successful seasons—earning a Supporters’ Shield trophy for the league’s best
regular-season record in 2013, and a
trip to the conference finals last year—it
also just lost the longtime face of the
franchise, French goal-scoring wizard
Thierry Henry, to retirement. With NYC
F.C. signing 2010 World Cup champion
David Villa and former Chelsea midfield great Frank Lampard, the weight
of star power has decidedly shifted to
the Bronx. It doesn’t help that the Red
Bulls recently fired coach Mike Petke, a
former Red Bulls player and fan favorite,
and replaced him with former Montreal
Impact coach Jesse Marsch. The move
prompted one fan group to raise a reported $5,500 for a billboard along I-280
protesting the change.
De Grandpre says he’s not worried,
touting the superior game experience
the Red Bulls can offer at a soccer-only
stadium. Asked what his club plans to
do to fight for soccer fans from New
York—about one-third of Red Bulls
season and group ticket holders, and
half of individual game ticket buyers
are from the New York—he says that
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