The New York Red Bulls have a history at Montclair State. From 2007 to 2013, Montclair State was home to RBNY practices, serving as the team's training facility until the club completed work on its own complex in Hanover before the 2014 season. Now in 2016, the club has announced it will be returning to Montclair, this time making it the home of NYRB II's competitive games in USL.
By moving the reserve team's primary residence to Montclair State, New York Red Bulls II kills three birds with one stone while still maintaining its overarching purpose.
What is that purpose? Well it's three-fold:
First, to give academy players a change to play at a higher level. This allows the coaching staff to evaluate them further prior to going off to college or offering them a Homegrown deal.
Second, to field a competitive reserve team. This allows end of the roster first team players to get time to develop, allows players to explore new tactical roles, and allows first team starters to regain match fitness at a higher level when coming off an injury.
Third, the team allows the club to maintain and enlarge its development pathway and increase its access to talent. The USL squad provides an alternative to college for academy talent not yet ready for Major League Soccer, it locks down prime talent from going abroad, and prevents young players from not getting enough playing time after signing, allowing the team to maintain their development. Additionally, the team allows for the organization to recruit more young foreign talent without being restricted by MLS roster size and restrictions.
Now where does Montclair State come into this? A fully maximized USL team cannot operate a long way away from the first team. Affiliates like Rio Grande Valley or independent USL teams simply are not nearly as effective as direct affiliates, losing an exceptional amount of effectiveness on the first and the third goals of the team. Montclair State's proximity solves this problem or rather doesn't make it a problem at all. NYRBII can practice with the academy and the first team at the training facility in Hanover and then play their games at Montclair State: no problem.
Second, moving to Montclair State helps the team meet USL stadium guidelines at a fraction of the cost. The USL requires that by 2017 all teams are housed in a soccer specific stadium that seats 5,000 fans. It appears that they'll be flexible on these terms to begin with and Red Bull Arena meets, and exceeds, these requirements, but the team loses a large chunk of money every time they open the stadium only to have 300 people show up. Montclair State, with its new additions courtesy of the Red Bulls, will give NYRB II a home without costing tens of thousands just to open the doors.
Speaking of those very low attendance numbers, the move to Montclair State is likely to fix that too. Not only will the numbers be boosted by the likely attendance of a few hundred college students every game (Montclair State has an enrollment of close to 20,000 students), but the change in venue will allow New York Red Bulls II to form its own identity, Minor league teams succeed locally, not nationally, so play to that locality. Market the team hyperlocally; make it Montclair's team, make it Clifton's team, make it Paterson's team.
The organization has already shown it is more than willing to change the name of the club if it suits their purpose. At Red Bull Arena the team was always going to be in the first team's shadow, but NYRBII is capable of establishing its own identity at Montclair State. North Jersey is plenty interested in soccer, with some good marketing and maybe a name change, there is no reason New York Red Bulls II cannot establish its own fanbase.
NYRB II will likely never draw tens of thousands of fans like Sacramento or Indy XI, however, there is no reason the move to Montclair can't help it develop its own hyperlocal fanbase of a few thousand.