There is no doubt New Yorkers are great sports fans. They get behind their basball, basketball, American football and Ice Hockey teams with committment and love. They have had to call on a lot of both in what have been difficult seasons for all NYC teams in 2014-15 except in Ice Hockey.
But now there is a new team NYCFC, New York’s first porfessional soccer team. Now soccer has a lot going for it. World wide it has 7 times more fans than America’s most popular sport baseball. In fact America’s 3 most popular sports baseball, basketball and American Football all trail the worlds’s most popular sports, soccer, cricket and field hockey by a wide margin, and that right there is the problem.
In every country in the world sports are popular for a mixture of factors associated with history, tradition and culture, all of which are matters of the heart, not necessarily issues of nationality. A case in point is cricket which was introduced around the world by Britain in it’s colonial heyday.
Right now the Cricket World Cup is being played in Australia and the Indian, Sri Lankan and Pakistani teams have all easily beaten the English team and boy did they crow. It was obviously good to beat the people who once ruled over them, no doubt about that. But what enabled these teams to so easily beat the once effortlessly superior English team was that Indians, Pakistani and Sri Lankans claimed cricket as their own game and only then were able to beat their previous masters.
So soccer, so popular in Europe and Central America, has to compete against the sports New Yorkers already hold dear. And virgin teams like NYCFC can’t hope to match the dash, cash and fervent fan base that are the mainstay of established teams. NYCFC is owned jointly by the New York Yankees and Manchester city so some of the cash is there, but a fan base can only be built over time.
Will young New Yorkers become passionate soccer players while still in kindergarten? Winning teams and fan bases are built over generations. Are there young New Yorkers out there even now dreaming not just of playing for a MLS team in America but of starring one day in a FIFA World Cup Soccer final, the biggest team sports event in the world? It’s the answer to questions like this that will determine the long term future of NYCFC. Oh sure there will be a lot of promotion, the Yankees and Manchester city are taking a long view and they know they will have to spend big dollars before the rewards come. But whether that money is lost will depend on what lies in the hearts of young New Yorkers.