Major League Soccer made a huge announcement on Tuesday with the unveiling of the much awaited MLS franchise. That the league was determined to locate a franchise within the 5 Boroughs is no surprise, but the partnership of Manchester City and the New York Yankees was unforeseen.
The wealth of City’s owners is well known to soccer fans, but the wildcard in this relationship is the New York savvy and television power of the New York Yankees. Among Regional Sports Networks, the Yankee owned Yes network is a powerhouse. With large national penetration and lock down carriage agreements in the all important New York Metro area (this includes New Jersey, Long Island and Connecticut), the Yes Network offers MLS a huge opportunity to become a tv presence. Even though most of the national agreements do not allow for the broadcast of live games (and that could change for soccer), it seems likely that any relationship will include non match programming. While a relationship with Yes has not been confirmed, it seems almost a certainty given the Yankees involvement. Moreover, with all of the league’s national television deals set to expire in 2014, the presence of a new New York franchise that will likely spend on players will be a big negotiation carrot for the league.
Moreover, the Yankees have the ear of the New York sports media, and despite resistance to the sport among many in the fourth estate, the Yankees can leverage their brand to gain media attention. The Yankees know how to get attention on the back pages of the Gotham tabloids and the announcement drew a fair amount of local coverage. Right now the team has the support of the Big Apple’s outgoing Mayor, a powerful political force in the last year of his term.
Overall, this was as big of a splash as the league could have made with its New York 2 franchise. Both names have enormous cache both inside and outside the sports world and there are enormous available dollars to select premium players. This is an exciting moment for MLS and an important steppingstone. If this relationship fails, it will be a significant blow to the league, but the possibility of success could serve to raise the league to new heights.
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