Fifteen years ago today, Michael Lewis, then editor of, learned that Red Bull was negotiating with the Anschutz Entertainment Group to purchase the Major League Soccer franchise. This is the original story that was posted on that website. This week, will have several stories pertaining to the sale of the team in 2006.

By Michael Lewis

The MetroStars might have some new owners very soon and that’s no bull.

Actually, there could be a lot of bull involved, Red Bull, the producers of the carbonated energy drink, are seriously pursuing buying the MLS club from Anschutz Entertainment Group and are considering changing the name of the team, according to league sources, has learned.

Both parties would like to get a deal completed prior to the Metros’ April 2 season opener at D.C. United, sources said Thursday, although other sources indicated that an agreement was close to being completed. These talks have been confidential and under the radar for quite some time, league sources said.

It was not known for how much the team would be sold. Global Development Partners, a Northern Virginia real estate firm, had agreed to purchase D.C. United for a reported and estimated $26 million before the deal fell through Jan. 17.

AEG supposedly will retain the rights to the Metros’ proposed stadium in Harrison, N.J., sources said. The stadium is expected to open in late 2007 or 2008.

Red Bull, whose headquarters are in Austria, originally had considered acquiring an MLS expansion team that would become the league’s 14th club, sources said. But the company decided to change course and focus on the Metros.

The company already owns one soccer team — Red Bull Salzburg in the Austrian First Division, which Red Bull purchased April 6, 2005 when the club was called SV Wüstenrot Salzburg.

The new owners re-branded the team — changing the team’s name, management and staff, saying that it was a new soccer team with no history, even though the club had been around since 1933.

Not surprisingly, the change upset many fans of the club, but their five-month fight to keep the old name was unsuccessful.

Red Bull also changed the team’s colors from violet and white to red and white.

Red Bull Salzburg (14-8-2, 44 points) is tied for first place with FK Austria Magna (13-5-5, 44) in the Austrian First Division, although the latter has a game in hand.

Given the Metros’ sometimes sorry and underachieving history, some soccer observers have felt that re-branding might not be such a bad idea. The Metros have never qualified for MLS Cup and have advanced out of the first round of the playoffs only once — in 2000. They were eliminated in the opening round last year by the New England Revolution.

While Red Bull supposedly has plans of changing the Metros nickname, sources said, no other details were available on what the team might be called or if any drastic front office changes would be made and whether positions such as president and general manager Alexi Lalas. One source indicated that his job did appear safe.

If the deal goes through, Red Bull would be the Metros’ third team owner in their 11-year history. MetroMedia’s John Kluge and Stuart Subotnick owned the team from 1996-2001. AEG, whose empire includes ownership of five of the league’s 12 franchises, has owned the club since Nov. 21, 2001.

AEG also owns the Los Angeles Galaxy, Chicago Fire, D.C. United and Houston 1836, the former San Jose Earthquakes who are expected to get a new nickname before their season kicks off April 1.

MLS commissioner Don Garber could not be reached for comment, although league spokesman Dan Courtemanche did have a comment, saying any team sale was a club matter.

“We receive many inquiries about the MetroStars in regard to the team and second team,” Courtemanche said, referring to a possible second club in New York City. “Ultimately, the inquiries are forwarded to the club. All these inquiries are confidential.”

Lalas did not return phone calls for comment Thursday night.

Soccer has not been the only sporting venture for the company. Red Bull owns a pair of Formula One racing teams as well — Red Bull Racing and Scuderia Toro Rosso — which also were re-branded.