SBD/March 6, 2014/Franchises

MLS Red Bulls Struggle To Crack N.Y. Media Landscape Before NYC FC's Arrival

Henry is in the final season of the deal he signed in '10 and turns 37 in August
The MLS Red Bulls "still haven't managed" to become part of N.Y.'s "permanent media landscape in a meaningful way, with small slights and larger silences still the norm" since their inception in '96, according to Howard Megdal of CAPITAL NEW YORK. The Red Bulls in '15 "will be joined in the area by NYCFC, an expansion MLS franchise jointly owned" by EPL club Manchester City and the Yankees. That "not only guarantees the kind of initial media attention a new franchise receives, but the kind of financial and business backing that almost certainly will make it harder for the Red Bulls to be heard." Moreover, the new team "will be found somewhere within the city confines" as opposed to the Red Bulls, who play in Harrison, N.J. The "party line, of course, is that the rivalry will only help the Red Bulls," who now "have one final season to put a stamp on the city, with the stage all to themselves." Red Bulls GM Jerome de Bontin, who was "tasked with building the business side" of the team, "resigned unexpectedly on Monday, just five days before the team's opener" versus the Whitecaps. His departure "leaves the Red Bulls rudderless on the business end." The club landed the Supporters Shield title last season -- given out to the MLS team with the best regular-season record -- marking the "first major trophy in franchise history." But it is "hard to see how the Red Bulls capitalized on that success in a meaningful way on the business or media side." There is "something to be said for the argument" that a '15 focus on NYC FC "might allow for a fresh look at the Red Bulls, too." But "even that may be too late" because Red Bulls F Thierry Henry is "in the final season of the deal he signed" in '10 and will turn 37 in August. Exactly how long he "can go on being Thierry Henry, drawing card, is uncertain" (CAPITALNEWYORK.com, 3/5).

GOING PRO: Red Bulls Sporting Dir Andy Roxburgh on Tuesday said that the club is "well on its way to fielding a second team" in the USL Pro league, but that it "likely will not happen until the beginning of next season." SOCCERBYIVES.net's Franco Panizo noted, "The Red Bulls had initially attempted to get a team off the ground for this season, but could not pull it off in time and are now confident of doing so" ahead of the '15 campaign. The Red Bulls as part of the move to add a USL Pro team "are currently in the process of renovating the brand new training facility that they opened last year." The club is "adding locker rooms and bleachers in preparation for the arrival of the third division side, which Roxburgh said will play its home games at the facility" (SOCCERBYIVES.net, 3/5).
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