There will be no Red Bulls II.
Sporting Director Andy Roxburgh has told Big Apple Soccer's Kristian Dyer that "we will not have our own team" and that he's working on setting up an affiliate instead. The deadline to get a USL team is today.
This news after Hannover -- the Morris County town where the Red Bulls have their training facility -- approved a new field, with lights, a scoreboard, bleachers, press box, ticket booths and visiting locker rooms.
It's hard to put into words just how deflating this is. The New York Red Bulls have one of the best academies in the country, with a number of players getting looks from teams abroad, but one that's also had limited impact on the first team. The USL team would bridge the gap between the very good U-16, U-18 and U-23 teams and the Red Bulls squad that takes the field at Red Bull Arena. It'd give guys on pro deals who need some polish time to grow, too.
Instead, at least four Red Bulls will go out on loan, as per the rules hashed out with USL last year.
It's also hard to put into a single post all the talking points you can take away from this news. But here's my immediate takeaway...
- I wrote earlier this year that the Red Bulls should look at hashing out a long term plan, rather than buying what amounts to a big name rental. The prospect of a USL team was a big part of that. With no bridge between the U-16, U-18 and U-23 teams and the first team, it's much harder to utilize the academy to build a foundation of talented local kids.
- If you read between the lines, it seems very likely someone along the line decided the New York branch of Red Bull's global soccer empire no longer needed a reserve team. Back in March, Red Bulls brass -- Roxburgh specifically -- was frothing at the mouth to get a USL team done. Why else petition Hannover to build a field complete with a press box and ticket booths? No one is paying to see the U-18s. Or even the U-23s.
- It's always bandied about that Red Bull is pulling up the financial stakes in New York. This, to me anyway, is the first compelling piece of evidence to suggest that this is the case. There are valid explanations to other moves -- no third designated player? They didn't like or could afford any of the options -- but none for this. For a multi-billion dollar company that's used to spending money on sports, a USL team is pocket change.
- How can I say a USL team costs nothing? At least against the benefit it will provide MLS, it's obvious it's worth it, with at least seven teams jumping in the pool next year. And they're not all rolling in it. FC Dallas is putting a team on the field, as is notoriously small-market Real Salt Lake.
- The good news? Maybe Red Bull is looking to sell. They lose money each year, but a rising tide lifts all boats, with the franchise gaining value over the years. Add to that the reported $100 million (or more) bids received by MLS for Chivas USA and it could be a good time for Red Bull to cash out.
- If you're an optimist, there's the outside chance the Red Bulls just couldn't hash anything out by today's deadline and might look to get it done for 2016. But I'm not holding my breath.