Man City's instability, most recently evidenced by the axing of Roberto Mancini, is a wildcard, and its intentions may not be worth the millions a MLS expansion team would bring.Late Monday night in England, Manchester City's true colors rose to the surface again.
The club has taken tremendous strides since coming under Abu Dhabi ownership in 2008, with its free-spending ways eventually leading to top status in the Premier League. With the territory, though, comes an ample dosage of madness, the latest of which manifested itself just hours after cross-town rival Manchester United was parading through the streets with the trophy that used to call the Etihad Stadium home.
The club axed manager Roberto Mancini, the same man who guided City to its first English league title in 44 years a year ago to the day, and overcame a litany of personnel issues, injuries and limitless expectations to finish at worse third in the Premier League in 2012-13.
Sure, City failed to get out of the Champions League group stage again (perhaps its fate would have been different had it not been drawn into the Group of Death with Real Madrid, Borussia Dortmund and Ajax?), and with the club having an eye on Europe's biggest prize and gaining a bigger foothold on the continent, Mancini most assuredly fell short in that regard.
On the surface, it should not pertain all that much to American soccer fans, especially those who don't support City, whether the club's ownership made the right decision in firing its manager. That topic can be argued and debated on social media, in online forums, podcasts, radio shows and so on. The unpredictability, volatility and instability surrounding the club as a whole, though -- especially what has been exhibited in the last few weeks and appears to be the theme of the upcoming offseason -- may very well impact American fans in a much more tangible way in the coming weeks.
With widespread reports on both sides of the Atlantic that Manchester City is the favorite to land MLS's 20th franchise, the coveted second team in New York, the pros and cons of MLS establishing a professional link to the English club must be examined closely.
There are obvious positives in a link with an organization like Manchester City. MLS would bask in the added exposure in England and across the world while soaking in the millions upon millions of dollars that a deal with City owner Sheikh Mansour would undoubtedly bring. Financially, it's a no brainer.
As many have pointed out since the MLS player salary list was published by the league's players' union, the expected $100 million expansion fee for the rumored New York FC is more than what all MLS players make in a season combined.
MLS prides itself on achieving stability and keeping it, though. Attaching itself to a Manchester City outfit that does not exactly exude those qualities certainly feels like selling out to the highest bidder no matter the fallout.
For example, The Independent (UK) has reported that City sees a potential New York MLS franchise as a "nursery," a place to develop young talent and groom it for the Premier League club's first team as an alternative to its own reserve side. OK, that's fine for the eight international slots the team will be allotted from the start and perhaps the couple others the team could acquire via trade, but how much of an emphasis will there be on developing American talent with the rest of its roster? You know, like the kind MLS is supposed to be priding itself on and bringing along for the sake of soccer in North America? Will City truly make an effort to scout and identify talent in the United States that it could potentially bring overseas as well?
With City's freewheeling style and lack of a feel for the idiosyncratic MLS rule structure and salary cap ($2.95 million is, after all, about a quarter of what the club paid for the transfer of Scott Sinclair last summer), how will the club's brain-trust manage to stay within the strict limits? How much of City's potential presence in MLS is about each entity exposing its brand from a business standpoint, and how much of it is about a prudent way to help MLS continue its upward trajectory?
On an entirely different level, Sheikh Mansour and the Abu Dhabi royal family represent the United Arab Emirates, whose stance on homosexuality is vastly different and intolerant compared to the one that is firmly established and evolving in the United States. MLS and its Don't Cross The Line campaign would be making a serious concession to welcome those values to the owners' table.
This is still a hypothetical deal as of now, and MLS can absolutely benefit in a number of ways from a potential association with Manchester City, first and foremost financially. But what is the true cost of doing business on the MLS side? It might be more than any dollar figure can quantify.