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New York City Nomads

A team without a stadium of their own that play across this soccer-crazy city may not be such a bad thing — if the club embrace it properly

Public transportation is always the best option in New York City.
Photograph by Katie Cahalin, courtesy NYCFC.com

This is a story about a soccer team that wants to find a permanent home in New York City, but that could benefit by engaging with local soccer communities as it plays on borrowed fields across the Five Boroughs.

This team is yet to build a stadium to call its own due to the various issues that can be encountered when looking to construct such a facility in one of the world’s busiest built-up areas.

The alternative has been to find a temporary home – temporary for eight years so far – at a baseball stadium in The Bronx, and also to play games across the city. Sometimes even in…New Jersey.

Though Tradition states that a soccer team needs a permanent home, in playing across the city, this team – let’s call them the New York City Nomads – had the chance to lay roots across the metropolis from which it takes its name.

This could be a good thing. It could be useful in the future, and may not be such a problem in the present if they use their nomadic nature to their advantage. If they start winning again.

2022 Travels

By the time New York City FC began their US Open Cup fixture against Rochester New York FC at Belson Stadium, Queens, back in May, they had played at six different “home” venues in the space of just ten games at the beginning of the 2022 season.

The club kicked off its campaign in the CONCACAF Champions League against Costa Rican side ​​Santos de Guápiles, and the home leg in this Round of 16 tie was played on the other side of the country, thousands of miles away in Los Angeles.

Games in this continental competition cannot be played at their primary home, Yankee Stadium, home of the Yankees in the Bronx, or at their secondary home at Citi Field, the Queens-based home of the Mets, as these baseball parks are not approved by CONCACAF.

The Banc of California Stadium in Los Angeles was chosen for the club’s first home game of 2022 because NYCFC’s first fixture Major League Soccer fixture was away to LA Galaxy in the nearby city of Carson.

This minimized traveling for a team that had already been to Costa Rica for the first leg and had to then travel across the country again to Seattle for the semifinal.

Pratt & Whitney Stadium at Rentschler Field in East Hartford, Connecticut, was the designated home stadium for the home leg of the next round of the Champions League, as Red Bull Arena, which would host the home leg in the subsequent semifinal against Seattle Sounders, was unavailable.

This meant the home games in this competition were played at three different stadiums. Add the MLS home games at Yankee Stadium and Citi Field, then the US Open Cup game at Belson Stadium, and these New York City Nomads were living up to their name.

NYC: Soccer City

Though New York City boasts historic major league teams in football, basketball, hockey, and baseball, soccer still has its footprints around the city, even beyond the MLS sides.

There are too many soccer fields to count dotted about the city, used for anything from pickup soccer and small-sided games, to lower league competition.

Then there are the bars showing soccer on TV from around the world, and New York-based supporters clubs for many foreign teams who fill those bars each week. There is an appetite for the game throughout the area.

Soccer’s appeal across the five boroughs and the sheer size of the city means having a team that wanders across this sporting landscape, at least for now, may not be such a bad thing if it is marketed properly, and if it is successful.

Many within the game see the nomadic nature of New York City FC as a problem, and for opposition fans, it’s a subject for ridicule, but NYCFC taking their games elsewhere in the five boroughs or even elsewhere in the Tri-state area could be used in their favor in such a large, cosmopolitan place. And let’s face it, opposition supporters will always find an angle to poke fun at a team they dislike, especially a successful one.

New York is so big that each of the five boroughs could be its own city. Indeed if Brooklyn, population 2.5 million, were to become its own municipality it would be the fourth-largest city in the United States, just behind Chicago. The logistics of getting to watch NYCFC mean that fans will prefer certain venues based on location, as well as many other factors.

Getting from borough to borough on public transport is not always simple, but the network is good and reasonably cheap, and if you’re lucky enough to find an express section on part of your journey it can be relatively quick given the size of the city.

For those traveling from further afield, fans from Connecticut, New Jersey, and Westchester County in New York State would prefer the Bronx location, whereas those on Long Island might favor a home field in Queens or Brooklyn.

Rather than be embarrassed by it, NYCFC and their fans should embrace this period of the club’s history, using it to spread the club’s name around New York and welcome fans in whatever part of the city, or even the country, they are calling home on any given week.

Marketing such a nomadic team isn’t easy, but as these Pigeons spread their wings and fly around their hometown, it should be seen as an opportunity rather than a problem. And at the moment, how the team play is much more of an issue than where.