From a fan standpoint, as the great unwashed considered Major League Soccer and franchise No. 20, the league always looked more interesting with an expanded geographical footprint.
It made perfect sense from the outside; Major League Soccer stretching into the American southeast, specifically, had a certain sex appeal. Plus, more TV markets couldn’t hurt, right?
But for Major League Soccer’s deciders, this was a strategic choice all about dollars and good financial sense – something near and dear to those who keep answering cash calls for an 18-year-old operation that continues to dwell collectively in red ink.
What that ultimately means is TV contracts. That and greater media awareness, too, which helps drive sponsorships and, ultimately, further enhanced TV contracts.
Do not underestimate this as you consider that NYCFC, as of today, is now officially laying tracks in preparation for pulling into MLS station in 2015: All of Major League Soccer’s current TV deals end at the conclusion of the 2014 season. That means with NBC Sports, ESP and Spanish-language Univision.
All the deals will be negotiated beginning … well, right about now. They will all be in place by this time next year, or not much later than that. And now, thanks to today’s massive announcement, they will all that much more lucrative.
Speaking of lucrative:
A Major League Soccer expansion fee beyond the Big Apple runs about $40 million right now. Almost two years ago, MLS commissioner Don Garber set the NYC expansion price at $100 million. You don’t need much of a calculator to see about $60 million reasons why current owners would prefer this ordering of expansion, right?
That’s more cash in the here and now. Plus, by adding in one other ownership group before NYC’s $100 million gets tossed into the pool, the current owners’ split would be further divided (and by a new ownership group that didn’t share in the cash calls over the last few years.)
Further, the Yankees and Sheikh Mansour, Manchester City’s owner and a man of seriously ridiculous money, represent the kind of deep pockets MLS has long sought.
No offense at all to Orlando or Miami or any other Richie Rich-types out there who have enough money to buy into the MLS game — but perhaps not the level of money MLS is looking for at this point.
This has been a problem before in MLS – possibly even more than even close MLS observers are aware. MLS owners don’t want to deal with that mess any more.