The checkered history of pro soccer in upstate New York took another turn for the worse with the announcement that Rochester FC NY was immediately ceasing operations and withdrawing from the 2023 MLS NEXT Pro season.
Folding operations right at the start of the season is an unusual action, but Rochester FC NY was an unusual entry in MLS NEXT Pro, being the only current squad not owned by an MLS team.
The roots of Rochester FC NY come in the Rochester Rhinos, formed in 1996 and one of the higher-profile teams in soccer, building its own stadium and seeking to rise to MLS from what eventually became USL First Division. After bouncing around leagues and affiliations, the Rhinos went on hiatus in late 2017 before being sold to Premier League Jamie Vandy in 2021, undergoing a rebranding upon joining MLS NEXT Pro for the 2022 season., playing out of a Monroe Community College facility.
But MLS NEXT Pro proved to be a financial challenge for a non-MLS team, as MLS runs the league more as a development environment than a money maker. A month ago all indications were that things would proceed as normal for Rochester; that turned out not to be the case.
“When we relaunched the Club after a five year hiatus we, like so many of you, were excited about the future. While our first year was fraught with challenges, we nonetheless persevered and qualified for the playoffs,” the team said in a statement. “As we began the offseason it became apparent that to stay competitive, we would need a significantly greater investment in many aspects of the Club. Despite increased attendance, including the addition of nearly 600 temporary seats at our last match, the unfortunate reality is the current infrastructure coupled with other challenges resulted in no path to sustainability….
“We set out in search of a viable way to continue for the 2023 season and beyond. We met with some international soccer team owners to establish a technical relationship that would help reduce the operating costs of running the team. Other international team owners explored a minority investment in the Club, but unfortunately none of those opportunities materialized or would have taken several years to implement.
“Most recently, we were in advanced discussions with an ownership group to acquire a majority interest in RNYFC. However, the purchasing group decided not to proceed earlier this week as we were moving to close. This left us with no time and no choice but to decline fielding a team in 2023.”
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