McDonald: NYC FC’s Success At The Gate Should Help Spur MLS Growth

(Photo: USA Today Sports)

Under .500 teams at the end of the season rarely get large crowds.

However, with 25,075 at Yankee Stadium tonight, New York City FC is looking like a winner.

It’s good to see this expansion team still drawing, even though it has been overshadowed by the two baseball teams in pennant races and the first place Red Bulls in its own league.

But the fans don’t seem to care as they travel up to the Bronx to see soccer in a stadium build specifically for baseball. They are very raucous and seem to spur on the home team.

That’s what makes this so interesting. Right now at 8-14-7, NYC FC is a novelty and part of the reason why fans are flocking to the Bronx. Even though Yankee Stadium is half empty, having 25,000 fannies in the seats is a success by MLS standards.

“I think the sky is the limit and drawing 30,000 a game shows you that,” said goalie Josh Saunders.

If that’s the case then MLS should consider maximizing the New York market. Right now NYC FC draws 28,987 on a average which is third in the league, while the Red Bulls are 12th bringing in 19,671. Understand the Red Bulls play in Harrison, NJ in the shadow of Newark. Their fan base is more like the Devils, while NYC has a Rangers feel to them.

Now the first thing NYC needs to do is build its own stadium. Watching a soccer game at Yankee Stadium is kind of difficult. All the seats are angled towards home plate, so it’s difficult to see the whole outfield in the best positions.

Plus the best spot to watch soccer is at the center of the pitch, but one side of Yankee Stadium is blocked off by the batter’s eye and Monument Park and are the seats are pretty far away on the other because of the infield.

So a soccer specific stadium is needed somewhere in the Five Boroughs. Originally there was talk building it on the Fountain of the Planets in Flushing Meadows, but Queens lawmakers who did not want to lose parks space and the Mets, who don’t want to give Citi Field parking to the a team owned by the Yankees nixed that idea.

Then there was talk about building it by Yankee Stadium, down the road where the old parking garage stands. But this was opposed by Bronx politicians who don’t want to see another stadium build in the South Bronx, which doesn’t benefit the people of the South Bronx.

There’s now talk about Columbia University, but the Lion’s athletic complex is at the northern tip of Manhattan, which will make getting there by car tough and may turn off some because only a local subway goes there.

So there needs to be a new plan. But if each plan is opposed by “Not In My Backyard” politicians, it may never be done. And simply put, they can’t play in Yankee Stadium forever.

There’s was once talk about building the stadium on one of the west side piers in Manhattan or they can look at Coney Island or the Brooklyn Navy Yard, but both of those options make car travel difficult because the stadium would not be right off the highway.

However, mark my words, something will be worked out eventually, especially of attendance stays up. There’s just too much money to be made.

And if it does, MLS should consider launching its version of the Islanders – at least the team that existed up to last season. And it would be very easy as the New York Cosmos already play and would love to move up to MLS.

Right now, the Cosmos are in the NASL. Consider it a Triple-A league, a step below MLS. The Cosmos, though, treat the team like a major league franchise. It’s well funded and they have signed players like Raul.

They also have a stadium plan. Currently, they play at Hofstra and draw about 6,200 a game. Yes that pales in comparison to the two other teams, but remember they play at a college facility and are in a minor league.

The Cosmos, though, have an ambitious plan to build a 25,000 seat soccer stadium at Belmont Park. It would be accessible by the LIRR and totally self funded, although the infrastructure improvements on the Cross Island are still up in the air.

If the Cosmos move up, there may be three viable franchises in the New York area, which would create a very healthy league.

So yeah, the sky is the limit.

It will be interesting to see how this plays out.

About the Author

Joe McDonald

Joe McDonald is the founder and former publisher of NY Sports Day. After selling to i15Media in 2020, he serves as the Editor-in-Chief and responsible for the editorial side of the publication. In the past, Joe was the managing editor of NY Sportscene magazine and assistant editor of Mets Inside Pitch. He has covered the Mets since 2004.

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