With seven months before first kick at Yankee Stadium in the Bronx and just six players on roster, New York City FC, Major League Soccer’s 20th expansion club, has drawn rave reviews and more hype than anticipated for an MLS team.
With two internationally renowned players on board in David Villa and Frank Lampard, along with one of the MLS’ brightest architects in 41-year-old head coach Jason Kreis, NYCFC has stolen the spotlight of the MLS before even playing a game.
However, is all of the off-the-field success that NYCFC has ejnjoyed so far actually bad for the league, let alone the sport itself in America?
In a time where the MLS is in the midst of a new adventure, evolving itself into a breeding ground of sort for the future of the United States National Team, NYCFC has looked abroad to find its stars, already filling three of their eight available international slots (Villa, Lampard and Josh Saunders, who declares Puerto Rico). Kreis has also mentioned that they will add on four of Manchester City’s youth players on loan for the inaugural 2015 season.
“We have a very big interest in bringing some City players over to join us in New York and I certainly think the talent’s there and the ambition is there as well,” Kreis said.
There is concern in the soccer world, both domestically and internationally, that NYCFC will become a development team of sort for their parent team Manchester City. The defending English Premiere League champions will send their youth players across the pond to develop, something Ferran Soriano, Chief Executive at Manchester City has already declared to be the plan of sort for the club.
“We have some bright players,” Soriano said. “We might ask them to come to New York before they play at Manchester.”
“This is a team that’s going to play beautiful soccer in New York.”
With that said, let’s digress to MLS’ new endeavor: homegrown player development.
Bringing aboard some of England’s brightest young talent can push the American players a bit during practice and should certainly help NYCFC win in its first year, but it also defeats the MLS’ purpose of properly developing homegrown American talent.
This shouldn’t be a surprise to fans of MCFC, who’s club has six FIFA eligible English players on its roster, who’s reserve squad is only half English (12 homegrown English players on its 24-man roster) and who only had three players on the roster come through the youth academy system.
NYCFC’s ownership (MCFC and the New York Yankees) have a “win-now” mentality. There’s nothing wrong with that, but the way they’re going about it will hurt the collective growth of the younger American players who would stand to have their minutes stunted by the presence of too many internationals, thus stunting their growth and the growth of the sport overall in the United States.
— Nick Chávez (@NickChavezMLS) August 10, 2014
Think about this: young American athletes will have less of a shot at seeing the field as a pro having to compete with some rising English star for playing time.
“The biggest improvement our teams [MLS] need to make is in the depth of our rosters,” Kreis also said.
While Major League Soccer needs to focus on growing it’s homegrown talent, bringing in the internationals, especially in NYCFC’s case, does help build the sport overall in the country. The experience the overseas players bring could allow the American players see the game in a different light, while having the resources of a parent-club like MCFC give Kreis and company all sorts of options when it comes to player personnel.
“They don’t expect us to be Manchester City over here,” Kreis said. “They understand that’s not the way we need to do it in order to be successful in our league. There’s the [sense] that, ‘hey, we understand you’re the head coach in MLS. So we want to give you the room to do things the best way you can in order to win. But we’re here with all these resources we can offer you because you’re part of us.’”
Even though Manchester City has a reputation for not really developing its homegrown youth, Kreis has also said that he will place some focus on developing the homegrown playersstateside.
“At (Real Salt Lake), I would arguably say we developed national team players as well, because Kyle Beckerman and Nick Rimando weren’t national team players when we brought them into the group,” he said. “We also want to do our absolute best to develop players for both New York City and for the U.S. national team. We would love to be able to do both.”
If NYCFC can eventually gain independence from its parent club across the pond, it could become a hotbed for developing homegrown talent down the road.
But the question still remains for the new club in the Bronx. What’s their true motive? Will NYCFC’s moves pay off in the long run for club, league and country, or will this club end up compromising the progression that MLS has worked so hard to establish?
Only time will tell, but for the sake of relevancy in the soccer word, it will be the former.