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"Rivalry Week?" This chart says otherwise.

New York is pretty darn blue. Do they not have Twitter in New Jersey? Let's look at one way in which New York City FC already has the Red Bulls beat. Badly.

Noah K. Murray-USA TODAY Sports

The premise was simple: vote red or vote blue.

Across Twitter and Instagram beginning on Tuesday, fans were encouraged to use #WinRBNY or #WinNYCFC. Again, couldn't be simpler! Once all the tallies came in, the Empire State Building would be lit up with the winning color this Saturday, less than 24 hours before New York City welcomes the New York Red Bulls to Yankee Stadium for the first time.

Well, the web analytics folks at Topsy have been tracking the contest, and here's where we find ourselves:


This stuff is only for the fans-- it doesn't affect the players on the field whatsoever (at least it shouldn't). But this figure absolutely speaks for itself. Screams for itself, practically.

I asked Red Bulls captain Dax McCarty about this digital competition at MLS's "Rivalry Week" joint press conference on Wednesday, and the tremendous disparity laid bare for all to see. McCarty, whose social media presence is formidable in its own right, had little to say but for two things:

  1. That Red Bull fans ought to step up their social media presence, and...
  2. New York City FC fans' abilities to organize across these digital avenues is very impressive.
(Could you imagine David Villa singing the praises of Red Bull fans? Not a chance!)

So, why is this issue important? So many of our activities -- even mundane conversations about nothing in particular -- take place in digital venues. We see through the eyes of the internet as much as with our own eyes these days. Outside of match days, then, soccer clubs will live and die by their digital presence, and that presence's ability to engage with fans in a creative, persistent, and cooperative manner. It ought to be a question of empowerment-- do you want your fans to feel heard? To feel appreciated? That they're a part of something that's bigger than what happens on the field?

One of the reasons that MLS felt the need to expand into New York City proper is that the Red Bulls/MetroStars have never managed to generate any particular media buzz around the club that caused casuals to take notice. To put it bluntly: the media apparatus within the Five Boroughs has mostly never really cared one way or the other about that franchise. In fact, as a result, the loudest Red Bull fans grew famous for the tremendous, super-massive, viewable-from-outer-space chip on their shoulder. They just never quite caught on, like Aaron Eckhart, or Diet Coke with Lemon.

That doesn't sound like the New York I know.

This Empire State hashtag contest will be forgotten before too long, but it's emblematic of the impressive groundswell of support and engagement that has marked New York City FC's brief history.

Whether through the multiple supporter groups or the club-administered City Voice and Cityzens fan outreach programs, NYCFC is leading the way in our new century's ever-changing digital paradigm. They rightly recognize that these activities enhance the fan experience away from match day. If the Red Bull brass can't figure out a plan for themselves in that regard, expect to see the paths of these two teams diverge even further.