2015 is a critical year for MLS in its evolution towards becoming a major player on the world scene. The Frank Lampard news is not helping them get off to a good start. Lampard was introduced already by NYCFC as a critical part of not only their opening day squad but their marketing for their first season as well. Now, he’s going to stay with Manchester City until the end of the Premier League season and it doesn’t show well for the league and the intentions with the club. The league tried to tell the fans that NYCFC would not be a feeder club for Manchester City, but it doesn’t appear to be that way.
It appeared that Lampard had signed with NYCFC and was loaned to Manchester City, except that too wasn’t the case. He signed a short term deal with City that was later extended to finish out the Premier League season. This is not the first time the league has misled people because of their lack of transparency, so this is not new, however with a club that means so much to league like NYCFC does, it comes off as lying and insulting to an entirely new and critical fan base. This is not on Manchester City, because they are a major club looking out for their own interests and Lampard has played even better than most higher ups at the club could have even dreamed of. But MLS needs to be more forthright with the fans of NYCFC and the league about the situation when misleading has only caused more anger.
MLS doesn’t want to go down the path of Chivas USA mark 2, but the start of NYCFC has been poorly managed. They’re stuck in a less than ideal stadium situation with no way out at present, one of their key players is being hawked by the parent club, and there is little discernable difference between Manchester City and NYCFC at the moment. With Chivas USA, at the start it did look like the clubs were two separate entities with separate identities until Jorge Vergara took over. NYCFC’s immediate identity has been stripped away before their roster is even filled out, and even with David Villa and another DP on the way, the centerpiece of the expansion franchise has been stripped away. Orlando City has done a better job with their DP’s, but the franchise in the grander scheme doesn’t mean the same as NYCFC does. And when Lampard does come to New York City, Lampard will have played football consistently for over a year, which doesn’t bode well for a 37 year old midfielder playing on a baseball field.
There were always skeptics when Lampard was “loaned” to City, and they have been proven right once again. Even if NYCFC is truly an affiliate club, they need to be given something for their trouble, and loaned youth players from City and technical assistance is not good enough. Their entire brand identity was supposed to separate themselves from Manchester City but that has not only been blown up, it’s been blown up in the most MLS way possible. And it doesn’t show well for the team, the intentions of Manchester City or the league as a whole. To make things even worse, there’s not much they can do now to fix it.
2015 is such a critical year for MLS and NYCFC is a cornerstone of their growth and evolution to MLS 3.0. Having Lampard stay in England and essentially lying to NYCFC’s burgeoning fanbase as well as all US Soccer fans is not the way to get off to a good start. It’s such a shame too.
But in all honesty, we should have seen it coming. And MLS has only themselves to blame.