SANDY — The face of Major League Soccer, and particularly in New York City, changed forever back on March 9. That was the day Red Bull Company Limited purchased the MetroStars from AEG for $100 million, representing a shift in how the league is perceived around the world.

Just two years after Dave Checketts, a former NBA executive with no soccer background, purchased an expansion franchise in Salt Lake City, an Austrian energy drink company jumped aboard as well.

"I think it's exciting," said Real Salt Lake midfielder Chris Klein. "Anytime you get a group outside the soccer community who are willing to take a chance on our sport, it means a lot."

RSL keeper Scott Garlick, who's entering his 10th season, envisions a huge long-term impact as a result of the Red Bull deal and others like it.

"When owners like Mr. Checketts and the Red Bull people see it as a long-term investment, (who are) maybe a little bit outside of the soccer circles, I think it's going to ultimately be very positive because it will lead to an owner for every team, and in my view a free market," said Garlick.

Even though MLS commissioner Don Garber and Checketts both affirmed at a media roundtable in Salt Lake City on Monday that they have no desire to abandon the single-entity structure of MLS, the players believe the league is heading in that direction.

For now, however, players around the league will just have to sit back and marvel at Red Bull New York's deep pockets.

In two short months, the Red Bulls have completely altered the thinking of the soccer community in the Big Apple. First, they scrapped the MetroStars nickname, and rebranded the team after their own drink.

Even the logo features two Red Bulls colliding.

"I think it's great that they're thinking outside the box," said Klein.

New York transformed the team's drab Giants Stadium locker room into a posh player's lounge, and then laid natural grass over the stadium's field turf. For the team's season opener at D.C. United, the Red Bulls paid to bus 800 fans to and from the game, and purchased all game tickets as well.

For last week's home opener, fans were treated to a pre-game ceremony that featured former New York Cosmos players Pele and Franz Beckenbauer both kicking out the inaugural first kick. At halftime, the 35,793 fans watched a concert by Shakira and Wyclef Jean.

"Some of it might be a little gimmicky, but what sport in the world has not used gimmicks to increase popularity and awareness of their sport," said Garlick.

The Salt Lake keeper believes New York's situation is much like Real's situation under Checketts.

"When you have a strong commitment from ownership, that's a huge advantage and that's not always the case around the league," said Garlick.


RSL on the air

New York Red Bulls at Real Salt Lake

Saturday, 7 p.m.

Rice-Eccles Stadium

TV: Direct Kick

Radio: 700AM (English), 1600AM (Spanish)


E-mail: jedward@desnews.com