Greetings SI. I'm not sure how off topic this is or if anyone else is at all interested, but I figure this is a good place to get it all out. Straight up: I think SI should start organizing to bring a lower division team to the borough. These are a few of the thoughts that have been knocking around my head for the last few months.
Clearly, we're the smallest borough. NYC-wise, that means nothing. But about half a million people live here. If we're looking at the city proper (and not metropolitan area) we are larger than Cleveland, Atlanta, Anaheim, New Orleans, and Oakland. We clearly don't have the regional draw or recognition of those cities, but I'd just like to establish some perspective.
On to my reasoning.
MLS is starting to fill up. Within 10-15 years, I think the league will reach capacity. I don't think there is any realistic chance for promotion/relegation within the American soccer pyramid. Our country is too spread out and the owners at the top level will never want to see their franchise investments be relegated to a lower division. The growth of the top league probably stops at 30. This means that local soccer is more important than ever before. There will be dozens and dozens of smaller clubs to fill in for regional and local demand within the lower divisions. Lower division teams are starting to develop a legitimate following, even within the semi-pro and amateur circuit. We only need to look at the incredible success of Detroit City and their Northern Guard in the NPSL, or the long-time endurance and historical importance of the Brooklyn Italians. Sacramento Republic in the USL is drawing 20,000 people to regular season games in the third division. Indy 11 is seeing tremendous success in NASL. Nashville FC is a supporter-owned club playing in the NPSL and has developed a legitimate grassroots following in a very short period of time. The market is there for smaller markets looking for a local club.
Lower divisions are rapidly becoming a farm system for MLS. NASL's independence aside, USL-PRO affiliations are becoming extremely popular. The recently codified partnership between MLS and USL means that this will only accelerate. We need only look at Galaxy II (which I think could be a perfect model to follow) or Energy FC (OK City team and Kansas City affiliate) as two recent examples of a successful affiliation in practice. It is probably in NYCFC's best interest to develop a close to home affiliate for player development and growth. Given the Yankees stake in the team, it is not entirely outside of the realm of possibility to see a similar relationship develop as exists between the SI Yankees and their big brothers. The current USL season has seen extended loans in order to aid MLS player development and rehab. I don't think this is great for USL as an independent league, but it is a sign that the farm relationship is growing between MLS and USL. Having development players close to the mother club would be good for both NYCFC and the player looking to impress the people making decisions.
I think there is a serious untapped market here for pro or semi-pro soccer. Take the next sentence with a big ol' grain of salt, because MLS relied upon it (and failed) in the 90's and early 2000's: Kids play the shit out of soccer in this borough. I know what you're thinking. Orange slices don't make a market for a pro or semi-pro team. And I agree. But I do think it is a factor in getting bodies to the game. More importantly: a partnership with the local development structure (SI United seems to be the primary youth travel org) and the many many high schools in the borough would allow homegrown players contact with higher level clubs.
We will hopefully be a growing borough in the next few years. I'm an urban planner by trade, so this stuff interests the hell out of me. The borough's previous period of growth has stalled. Average population is getting older, young people are leaving for parts unknown because there is borderline zero excitement, no quality job growth, and the commute is crap. But there is room for hope! St George is seeing huge amounts of investment in the form of new commercial and higher density residential development. The apartment buildings that were stalled before the recession are bouncing back. The Wheel, Empire Outlets, the Stapleton Homeport, and the Lighthouse Point developments make it clear that the city sees real growth potential for the island's most urban places. The recent success of soccer in America is thanks to renewed interest from young urban professionals. Look at KC, Seattle, Portlans, Sacramento, or Detroit for proof of this. If there will be growth here, there should be a local team to capitalize on our hopefully burgeoning downtown.
Next steps? There are none yet. This is really the only place I could think of in the short term to start gauging interest. Ideally, insanely, unrealistically, I would love to one day see an NYCFC-affiliate club playing a summer afternoon game at Staten Island Yankees Stadium. I'd love to march to the match from Cargo or Steiny's and watch the shit out of a hyper-local soccer club. I think that would be an incredible and vindicating achievement for our lonely little borough.
I don't intend in any way to take away from NYCFC support. I'll be supporting the hell out of team myself. But everyone needs a truly local club. This feels like a potentially unique and exciting opportunity. So feel free to comment here, message me, or ignore entirely. Please let me know if this sounds as insane to you as it does to me. Cheers all.