According to a report in Spain's Diario AS referenced this morning on MLSsoccer.com, the Red Bulls are in the running to enter into a strategic partnership that could help turn the MLS side into an internationally recognized club. In fact, the alliance is already set – Manchester City of the EPL and La Liga's Atletico Madrid are the marquee names for a lineup that includes Mexican Primera club América, Shanghai Shenhua, Raja Casablanca, Al Ain of the United Arab Emirates, and Thai side Muanathong United. The remaining non-MLS teams also being discussed to join this partnership are Atletico Paranaense, Palmeiras, and SC Internacional of Brazil as well as Japan's FC Tokyo and Yokohama Marinos.
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The goal of this coalition isn't just player development, but also promotion and sponsorship. With clubs spread out all over the world in Europe, Africa, South America, the Middle East and Asia, the teams involved will be able to reach a much larger audience, attract more international sponsorship, and also potentially tap into new foreign broadcast markets. The member clubs would all compete in a friendly tournament during the European preseason, beginning with ten teams divided into two groups of five, competing for a yet-to-be-named trophy.
However, as I said at the outset, the Red Bulls aren't part of this nascent alliance just yet. The article mentions two other MLS clubs as potential partners – Chivas USA and San Jose. What interests me is that all three clubs already have very obvious international partnerships. Red Bull New York is one of four soccer teams owned by the Austrian energy drink manufacturer, Chivas USA is owned by CD Guadalajara, and the San Jose Earthquakes are affiliated with the EPL's Tottenham Hotspur. (Incidentally, through their Tottenham affiliation, San Jose are already linked to another potential member of this new Manchester/Madrid group – the aforementioned Brazillian club Internacional.)
New York, due to its location in a major international media market, recognizable talent, and dedicated stadium, and built-in sponsorship seems like it would be the most obvious contender. As the article noted, ownership apparently is a major factor for the group – Al Ain is owned by the Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi while Muangthong United owner Siamsport controls 90% of Thai television rights. It's worth noting that New York head coach Hans Backe was an assistant coach at Manchester City for their 2007/2008 campaign and that both teams took part in this summer's Barclay's New York Football Challenge at Red Bull Arena.
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