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2023 Front Office Preview: Brad Sims

NYCFC’s president and CEO delivered on his much-repeated stadium promise. His next big task will be keeping the complex Willets Point stadium project on track.

Brad Sims at PS 184M Shuang Wen in Manhattan’s Chinatown. Photograph Courtesy

Brad Sims

Position: President and CEO
Age: 47 (39-year-old Brad made this 40 Under 40 list back in 2015)
Key Stat: $780 million - Amount New York City FC has agreed to pay to finally build its stadium at Willets Point.

What went right in 2022:

Brad Sims became the one club president/CEO of the handful NYCFC has had to date to actually deliver on their promise to get the team its own stadium. He drew lots of attention at City Hall during the 2021 MLS Cup celebration for forcefully reiterating that promise of a stadium, and by mid-November 2022, Mayor Eric Adams was formally turning that promise into a reality. All other positive developments around the club that could be attributed to Sims in 2022 pale in comparison to the historic stadium breakthrough that finally arrived.

Since becoming the club’s CEO in December 2018, Sims has repeatedly tried to thread a needle by discussing ongoing, complex stadium negotiations with NYCFC fans, while also revealing as little as possible about those negotiations. It was a recurring trust exercise, one that saw Sims strike a confident public tone about progress being made towards finding the team a permanent home, while never giving interested listeners any real clear information about the where or the when or the how of any of those negotiations.

It all ended up working out shortly before Sims’s fourth anniversary in the job, and now Sims’s time with NYCFC will forever be remembered for the deal getting done under his leadership, regardless of whatever his actual level of involvement may have been. The team now has a permanent home to work towards, and Brad Sims deserves to take a victory lap.

What to improve:

Reducing the number of different stadiums NYCFC is forced to call home should be an area targeted for improvement by Sims in the year ahead. The club’s congested, compressed 2022 calendar saw it call six different venues “home,” and included a home CONCACAF Champions League fixture staged in Los Angeles. With the new, expanded Leagues Cup and the reformatted MLS Cup Playoff structure now both officially planned for the 2023 season, there’s again the potential for scheduling headaches to pop up throughout the NYCFC season. Can Sims navigate around the schedule of New York’s two baseball teams and finesse things so that there are no more 2023 home matches held in Harrison, New Jersey? There has been much speculation over a potential “temporary home venue” for NYCFC within the five boroughs, but there’s been no sniff of any real progress on that front, nor confirmation that the club is even still actively trying to make it happen.

What to expect in 2023:

2022 was referred to by many fans as a “season of vibes” due to the goodwill that accompanied winning the 2021 MLS Cup. It didn’t seem that the vibes stayed celebratory all the way through 2022 for all fans, but I personally think that Brad Sims is owed his own personal season of vibes for 2023. He should be feeling liberated, no longer forced to grin and bear it as he’s asked in every possible fan Q&A or press interview to explain in detail what exactly is going on with NYCFC’s stadium search.

That said, Sims should also be ready to go to battle on behalf of this still-tenuous stadium project when issues arise that might impact its progress. The planned redevelopment of Willets Point is a complicated, neighborhood-creating megaproject that intersects directly with many different parts of local New York City politics. Pointed questions have already been raised about the project by the New York Times, and the bureaucratic process of full, final approval of the Willets Point buildout is only just beginning. Sims will need to keep things moving forward positively on the stadium front as it inches closer and closer to its 2027 opening.

Sims also finds himself leading a club in the City Football Group network at an awkward moment. The Premier League has thrown tons of regulatory charges at Manchester City, the club atop the CFG food chain. NYCFC’s parent company now finds itself in a precarious position, its showpiece club facing potential punishment for alleged financial misdeeds. It’s unclear if any of this will impact NYCFC or Sims’s work, but the continuously unfolding Man City/CFG scandal does have the potential to kill some of Brad’s season of vibes.