by Sam van der Loo

 

Have you never seen a home plate on a football field? Then you should visit a game of New York City FC. The club was founded in May 2013, but still doesn’t have its own stadium and plays its home games at the world-famous Yankee Stadium of MLB side New York Yankees. To the annoyance of the football club’s supporters.

 “We certainly need a stadium of our own”, states Andrés Emilio Soto (36), who has supported the club since the very beginning.

Soto is the founder and owner of NYCFC Nation, one of the biggest fan platforms the club knows. Via social media and the accompanying podcast, he is in contact with over 20,000 supporters of The Blues. “The same number of season ticket holders during our first season in the Major League Soccer. Since then, we have had players on our payroll like David Villa, Frank Lampard and Andrea Pirlo, who attracted visitors from all over New York. With my fan medium, I’m hoping to increase the popularity of the club even more.”

NYCFC had its first spell in the top flight in 2015. “The high number of season ticket holders immediately showed that there is enthusiasm for a top club in The Big Apple”, Soto says. “Now, a couple of years later, this number has dropped to approximately 10,000. Football supporters do not feel at home in a baseball stadium. Sometimes, during a game, you forget that it’s a baseball stadium. But when you look up and you see the big Yankee sign, you remember. In addition, consumptions within the stadium are also very expensive. It just doesn’t work.”

 

“Supporters are starting to lose hope”

 

There have been rumours about plans for a new stadium since the establishment of NYCFC, but these have never been confirmed by the board of the club. “By now, it has been so long that supporters are starting to lose hope. I think that an announcement of a stadium plan will directly increase the number of season ticket holders and general visitors. It would definitely be a boost for football supporters in New York.”

The rumours going around indicate a new stadium would be built in the same part of the city as the Yankee Stadium, in the Bronx. But no serious investment plan has been developed yet.

A new season awaits

Despite the perils about the stadium, Soto is looking forward to the new MLS season, starting In March. “Of course, I can’t wait. I am a lover of the game. But it would have been nice to start this season in our own stadium.”

The new MLS season includes the debut of brand new Atlanta United FC coach Frank de Boer, who hopes to lead his new employer to a second successive championship. “I am kind of jealous of Atlanta”, laughs Soto. Atlanta is, just like NYCFC, one of the newer clubs in the MLS. The side from Georgia immediately grabbed the league title in its first season in the top flight, averaging a stunning 70,000 visitors during their home games in the Mercedes-Benz Stadium. Strikingly, Atlanta also shares its stadium with another sports branch: American football.

To make the jealousy even worse: NYCFC met its waterloo in the play-offs of last season against Atlanta. The New Yorkers had finished third in the regular competition, but saw their title aspirations fail against Atlanta, who beat NYCFC 4-1 on aggregate.

NYCFC begins the 2019 campaign with a visit to Orlando City SC on March 2. The first ‘home’ game is eight days later, against D.C. United.

Image: Juan Carlos Rubiano (https://www.instagram.com/ohcitysaidi/)

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