Originally appeared on Page 36 of SRFC Magazine
The New York Red Bulls disappointed fans when they failed to bring home a championship title for the 17th season in a row. The team advanced into the Major League Soccer Cup playoffs in postseason, after earning the 2013 Supporters’ Shield for winning the most games in the season. However, the Houston Dynamo knocked RBNY out of the playoffs during the Eastern Conference Semifinals, the fourth time in a row RBNY only made it to the first match of playoffs. With no championship title, RBNY faces losing its fanbase as the metropolitan area gains a second MLS team, the New York City Football Club.
RBNY owned the title as the only MLS team representing New York/New Jersey since 1996 when they were called the MetroStars. The MLS recently created new teams in the league including the NYCFC and Orlando City Soccer Club, which will both debut in the 2015 season.
With the addition of two teams, there are a total of 21 teams in the league. Yet, RBNY and NYCFC are the only franchises to represent the same region. The area is known for having rivalries caused by having multiple teams within a league. NY/NJ sports fans spilt: NY Yankees versus the NY Mets in Major League Baseball and NY Giants versus NY Jets in the National Football League. Similarly, RBNY and NYCFC will battle for the support of metro fans. However, the battle between metro MLS teams differs from those of their MLB and NFL teams due to the locations of their stadiums. Both the Jets and Giants play at MetLife Stadium in East Rutherford, NJ. The Yankees and Mets play in New York City: Yankee Stadium in Bronx and Citi Field in Queens respectively. But Red Bulls’ Arena is in Harrison, NJ and according to the NY Post, the NYCFC’s stadium will be in Bronx, NY. With RBNY technically in NJ, it will be easier for the NYCFC to claim New York City as theirs.
Because the Yankees and Manchester City franchises own the NYCFC, the new team also is advantaged in gaining fans despite RBNY’s veteran status. With the Yankees’ popularity and the attention of English Premier League fans, NYCFC’s fanbase may dominate the RBNY’s. Not to mention, NYCFC head coach Jason Kreis, former player of the Real Salt Lake and Dallas Burn, brings his own fans to the team. If the NYCFC takes the first metro area championship title, then the public will know them as the region’s main team.
Yet, the NYCFC can be positive overall for the MLS. Most American soccer fans follow international teams instead of domestic ones. With the cooperation of international leagues with MLS teams, soccer’s popularity in North American can increase. “I think the creation of more MLS teams will have a positive impact. That will mean that players from overseas will come over more, and so the quality of play will hopefully increase,” says Jawan, 20-year old RBNY and Yankee fan.
Though, the inconsistent performance of RBNY in postseason could discourage new MLS fans from supporting them. Soccer fans blame the rumored “Curse of Caricola,” since MetroStar Nicola Caricola’s own goal caused the team to lose their first home game in 1996. RBNY qualified for the playoffs 14 times. The team qualified for the finals in 2008 but lost to the Columbus Crew. Despite no 2008 players still on the team except the new coach Mike Petke, fans regained faith in the team after a successful 2013 season. RBNY defeated home team Dynamo in the first leg, but ended with a lower aggregate score once they played in Harrison.
RBNY history shows a disheartening pattern at home games, when most metro fans are in attendance. If NYCFC is successful at home games, the new team may have a higher fan attendance at games.
The future of the RBNY franchise all depends on the loyalty of its current fans. If the fans can tolerate more disappointments or the RBNY can step up to win the MLS Cup before 2015, RBNY will make its mark as the only NY/NJ team worth watching.
“You don’t really give up on your childhood team just because they don’t do well, that’s what loyalty is for. I don’t care if RBNY doesn’t win a trophy for the next ten years, I won’t abandon them. I’ll keep going to that stadium every summer,” says Asad, 19.