For 15 years, Major League Soccer’s New York market has lacked an international superstar, a player who could resonate with soccer fans as well as casual sports fans the way Pele did in this market three decades ago.
More is riding on Henry succeeding than the chance to add to a mostly-empty trophy case. Major League Soccer is moving aggressively to add a second team in the New York market, a development Red Bull actually supports, but Red Bull also knows that it must succeed on and off the field in the years between now and the arrival of that second New York team ( which could come as early as 2013 or 2014) if the Red Bulls are going to build a strong enough fan base to compete with, and stay ahead of, a second New York team.
MLS also knows that a successful showing by Henry could lead to the type of success for the Red Bulls that will make it easier for the league to lure an owner to buy a second MLS team in New York.
It all sounds like a lot for one player to do, but Henry isn't just another player. He is an icon, a world celebrity and a player who just might have the qualities to succeed in New York the way no soccer player has since Pele.
After 15 years of waiting, actually more like 25 years of waiting, New York area soccer fans have their first international superstar to root for. If Henry can score goals, turn the Red Bulls into champions, fill Red Bull Arena, and display the form that made him one of the best players of his generation, he will ultimately prove to have been worth the wait.
Ives Galarcep is a senior writer for FoxSoccer.com covering the U.S. national team and Major League Soccer.