Manchester City has been the rumored front-runners for the next Major League Soccer expansion team in New York City. A very rich ownership group with money to spend, the group was officially announced by MLS as the new owners of New York City FC, the twentieth team in the young league.
There are, hooever, a few catches. First and foremost, the team will begin play early in 2015 at a temporary venue as opposed to in 2016 with a permanent home. Even more important in the long run, another free-spending ownership group with deep pockets will join Manchester City in operating the team, baseball’s legendary New York Yankees.
With two groups of such riches, it remains to be seen if the league will take the next step in allowing a higher salary cap and more designated players or not, but this is definitely a step in the direction.
The league was close to a deal for a new stadium in Flushing Meadows-Corona Park in Queens, but it is unclear whether those plans will carry through as the permanent stadium for the new franchise or not, though it appears likely so long as local opposition can be handled.
Realignment will also be necessary, as a second New York team gives the Eastern Conference two more teams than the West. The most likely change would be to move Houston back to the West, where they played prior to the expansion into Portland and Vancouver in 2011.
Brining each conference to ten teams (potentially), the league will face the decision on whether to stick with a simple, two-conference, system or whether to divide each conferences into divisions. While single-table formatting typical of other soccer leagues around the world may incline the league to avoid further dividing the league, it would certainly have benefits. Results of dividing the conferences into divisions would include strengthened local rivalries – including the one that is to form between New York City FC and the existing New York Red Bulls, playing in Harrison, New Jersey – and economic benefits due to decreased travel. In this scenario, more of these rivalry games will be able to be broadcast nationally as well.
A four division MLS could look something like this:
Eastern Conference Atlantic Division: D.C., New England, New York, New York, Philadelphia
Eastern Conference Central: Chicago, Columbus, Montreal, Sporting Kansas City, Toronto
Western Conference Northwest: Colorado, Portland, Real Salt Lake, Seattle, Vancouver
Western Conference Southwest: Chivas USA, FC Dallas, Houston, Los Angeles, San Jose
It wouldn’t be perfect, but would be beneficial to many rivalries including that of the New York squads with each other and with New England, D.C. and Philadelphia, Chicago with Columbus and Sporting Kansas City, the Cascadia rivalry between Portland, Seattle, and Vancouver, the Los Angeles local derby between Los Angeles and Chivas USA, the Texas rivalry between FC Dallas and Houston, and the Rocky Mountain rivalry between Real Salr Lake and Colorado.