There was a time when New York Red Bull was the diamond in the collection of soccer teams that fall under Red Bull Global. There was a time when the Austrian energy drink giant went to great lengths to bring in massive stars and went to great lengths to make the MLS club the “Super Team” that was originally pitched by initial General Manager Alexi Lalas back in 2006.
Those days are long over and current head of Global Soccer, Ralf Rangnick, has outwardly expressed where the priorities are for Red Bull Global.
“It is important for RB to ensure in the next few years that more players are developing in locations like New York or Brazil, who qualify as reinforcements for us,” said Rangnick to Kicker in Germany.
The “us” he’s referring to is RB Leipzig, the team he currently is caretaker manager of until Julian Nagelsmann takes over in the summer. Leipzig has gone from pet project to number one priority with UEFA Champions League qualification in sight and potential Bundesliga trophies within reach in years to come. That means that all other teams are serving the purpose of Leipzig’s greater good.
Look no further than the last MLS off-season to see that plan in affect. Tyler Adams still hasn’t reached his apex as a player, but was stripped from New York with little in return and plugged into the Leipzig midfield. Amadou Haidara, a dynamic force in the attack for Salzburg is also moved to East Germany despite a need in Salzburg, who also compete for continental titles. The call-ups even went so far as to grab the coaches with Jesse Marsch joining the Leipzig coaching staff midway through the 2018 campaign.
Even attention has waned for the New York side. A dispute over the transfer of Alejandro Romero Gamarra festered during the off-season with Red Bull Global having little visible interaction with the situation. During that time it is reported that Global Head of Red Bull Soccer Oliver Mintzlaff was in Brazil finalizing the recently reported merger of South American sides. The issue with Gamarra remains with the team and the player frustration hasn’t appeared to be something that the front office has been able to address.
The shift is clear and the Red Bull organization is no longer hiding it. The real question: Will fans still be interested in a glorified minor league soccer team?
The answer thus far has been no. Attendance has dropped with 2018 being the lowest since 2012 and a 12% drop year over year. In 2019 attendance has started slow, 17% less than 2018. No significant new player signings were made in the off-season and the team once again crashed out of the Concacaf Champions League, adding to the fan frustration.
The latest acquisition of CA Bragantino is an example of how much money and influence Red Bull has on the global game. Merging their Red Bull Brasil team with Bragantino, they now have a second division club, ready to scout some of South America’s best talent, and move them to Germany.
Years past would have had fans believing that New York could benefit from these moves. However, it is now obvious that you can be good to play for New York Red Bulls, but don’t be too good or you’ll end up in Leipzig.