By J Hutcherson – WASHINGTON, DC (Dec 11, 2013) US Soccer Players – Credit NYCFC for playing the long game. The team scheduled to play within the limits of New York City hired Jason Kreis a year before they need a head coach. If anything, that’s a compliment for Kreis. The latest club with ambitions that might be larger than its league goes all in with nothing to play for on the field in 2014. Kreis, who doesn’t have international club experience, gets a working year that we already know includes time discovering what works at Manchester City. By any measure, that’s an opportunity for a still young American coach.
What Kreis leaves behind is a league still choosing between the big club model and the plucky overachiever. Kreis helped prove that small clubs can succeed, but his new job isn’t about that. Not at all. NYCFC by design plays on the biggest stage, even if we don’t have an exact address for where that stage is physically located.
A team owned by Manchester City and the New York Yankees doesn’t plan to be average. These are global sporting brands of the first order, and they’re hardly going to be satisfied with just another MLS team. That’s off putting to a lot of the current MLS fan base, and for good reason. It’s not a new line for new New York. MLS tried it in the Tri-State from the very beginning, revamped, re-branded, and now tries it all over again.
So far, only the Los Angeles Galaxy turned that focus and cash into titles. Like it or not, and some teams would certainly like a greater return on their outlay, it’s those titles that still count. 2014 is another year of the elite for Los Angeles and the New York Red Bulls. Seattle joined that duo midway through the 2013 season. Toronto and its new management would like a turn.
What that means for NYCFC is a higher standard over a season they’ll watch. It could be a noticeably different league by the time Kreis coaches his next regular season game. Though it might bring an end to the era of the over-achieving club capable of matching or bettering the bigger spenders, it makes sense.
Professional sports is a risk/reward business. Even spreading the risk across all the member clubs, there’s still the need to prove the concept. Roster and cap expansion, designated players, and full participation in the global transfer market has to show in the standings. It also has to apply to more than one or two teams.
The other New York area MLS team did the newbies a favor by winning the Supporters’ Shield. Hopefully, things stay the same next season. Now, imagine Seattle playing to its roster. Add in Toronto – well, not pulling another Toronto. All of a sudden, there’s a line drawn in both conferences. Will that be enough to force the stubborn members of the league to spend? With enough clubs proving the competitive point, does that even matter?
If you pay attention to Liga MX, Brazil, and Argentina, you’re well aware that the Central and South American Clausura/Apertura model is built on the quick turnaround. Players and coaches come and go. A fit for one short season might not make sense for the next. Change is almost constant in those leagues. Even the occasional dynasty doesn’t expect to win every league title year after year. Certainly not with the same personnel locked into place.
Major League Soccer is closer to the other North American pro sports and college soccer. Coaches stick around. Plans stretch over seasons. Still, we have enough examples of teams going from bad to good and vice-versa quickly in MLS. Though it might not be at Liga MX levels, this is a season-by-season league. That benefits expansion teams. The Chicago Fire was the first example. It’s worth remembering that the Miami Fusion held up their half of that expansion class as well.
For a club with NYCFC’s backing, that expansion opportunity goes hand-in-hand with the revised MLS salary rules. They can build to scope and expect a quick return.
That’s what will make NYCFC so interesting in 2014. Pay attention to how they’re already talking about their debut season. All the addition of Kreis shows is this is a team ready to play in Major League Soccer.
J Hutcherson started covering soccer in 1999 and has worked as the general manager of the US National Soccer Team Players Association since 2002. Contact him email@example.com.
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