No, the New York Red Bulls aren’t a farm team to RB Leipzig

RB Leipzig future player Caden Clark, currently of the New York Red Bulls . (Photo by Ira L. Black - Corbis/Getty Images)
RB Leipzig future player Caden Clark, currently of the New York Red Bulls . (Photo by Ira L. Black - Corbis/Getty Images) /

Time to get over the nonsense that the New York Red Bulls are a farm team to RB Leipzig and FC Red Bull Salzburg, the organization’s European clubs. This is, for better or worse, modern soccer. And the MLS side is benefitting from this relationship as much as their sister clubs in Europe.

And if it is nothing more than a farm team to RB Leipzig, then the New York Red Bulls are an impressive one to say the least.

(But they aren’t so…)

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The latest uproar from fans of the New York Red Bulls came this past week when, after months of anticipation, it was made official that Caden Clark is headed to sister club RB Leipzig at the end of the season. This move makes 2021 the only full season that Clark will be in MLS, eclipsing the pace of development set by the likes of Tyler Adams and Matt Miazga.

All of which is good news for MLS and certainly the United States national team (Clark made the provisional Gold Cup roster). But for Red Bulls fans, it is a discouraging development.

The sale of Clark within the Red Bull organization is more proof, the critics say, of the New York franchise being a feeder team. An extended academy, if you will, for the Champions League sides in Leipzig and Salzburg.

Coming off the year of Thierry Henry and Tim Cahill, this is a bitter pill to swallow for long time fans. Even in the MetroStars days, this organization invested in star players. Now, the lineup is increasingly young and, increasingly moving abroad quickly.

But it all ignores the fact that Clark, who came up through the Minnesota Thunder Academy as well as the Barca Academy and needed a trade for his rights before signing in MLS late last season with the Red Bulls, likely wouldn’t have moved to New York if this pathway to Europe wasn’t present. The New York Red Bulls, through what they’ve done with Adams, have a clear system that allows Homegrown talent to develop in MLS and move to a top European league.

If the New York Red Bulls didn’t have this system and pathway then Caden Clark likely isn’t coming to the club at all. The sales pitch to a talented young player like Adams, who moved to RB Leipzig two years ago, was made easier in selling the Homegrown a path to the Bundesliga.

The Champions League side had interest in him, but also saw the benefit of the young American getting real minutes in a competitive MLS to ease his transition.

And for a young player like John Tolkin, who is already looking good at left back despite being just 18-years old, a move to Salzburg or Leipzig could be in the next couple of seasons.

Tolkin made his fourth start of the season on Sunday when the New York Red Bulls took on Atlanta United.

It is the type of advantage that the Red Bulls can and should exercise. Without this pathway to a top European club, the likes of Clark, who grew up in Minnesota, likely wouldn’t have come to the club in the first place.

The real question should be why Red Bull as an organization waited till this year to open up the pocket books and spend on New York? The transfers such as for Polish U21 forward Patryk Klimala shows ambition, the type the club has been lacking for several seasons. But in 2019 and especially last year, when the club’s talent level was clearly causing struggles under head coach Chris Armas, the transfer market approach from leadership in Austria was underwhelming.

Putting some real talent on the field can and should be an issue for New York, as the transfer budgets in recent years have left the team below the needed threshold to compete. The system, the famed pressing and counter-pressing, allowed them to be competitive through these lean years. But as 2015 and 2018 showed, when the right talent level combines with their system, it can result in hardware.

Now that Red Bull seems committed to bringing in a higher level of talent, ranging from Klimala and Stoke City’s Thomas Edwards, the team should be ready to do more than just tread water.

Which will allow young talent on the current New York Red Bull roster like Clark and Tolkin to be playing the kind of high level matches that got Adams ready for his leap to the Bundesliga with RB Leipzig.

Across the river, New York City FC has not been able to bleed in their Homegrown talent into their City Football Group subsidiaries. For the moment, at least, it seems like players like Clark will be choosing the Red Bulls to get a jump start with their professional career.

Without this launching pad and a pathway in place, it is clear that players like Clark and Tolkin wouldn’t be choosing the Red Bulls or possibly MLS at all.

Rather than being a farm team, perhaps New York is benefitting from its association with RB Leipzig and Red Bull Salzburg more than angry fans would like to think.

Follow Kristian Dyer of ‘MLS Multiplex’ on Twitter @KristianRDyer