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Homeless Champions: The NYCFC Stadium Saga

As NYCFC kicks off their 8th season in Major League Soccer, they still find themselves searching for a permanent home of their own.

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Homeless Champions: The NYCFC Stadium Saga

Estimated Reading Time: 3 Minutes

Real estate is expensive. It’s even more expensive in the most populous city in the United States. Trust me, I’ve lived in and around New York City my entire life. I bounced around several apartments over the last 20+ years, most of it necessitated by rising prices and trying to keep things affordable.

Of course, I’m just a “gig life” guy trying to keep his head above water while pursuing a notoriously unforgiving career. Things might be a little different if I were, say, the owner of a professional sports team? You’d think that if you can afford to own a sports franchise, you shouldn’t have TOO MUCH trouble securing a venue in which to play your sport, no? Well, if you assumed that’d be the case, you’d be wrong. Just ask the players, fans, and owners of New York City Football Club (NYCFC), the reigning MLS Champions.

Orphans From The Very Beginning

Back in 2010, MLS Commissioner Don Garber announced an intended expansion of the league, stating that the 20th team would be a second franchise located in the New York area (the New York Red Bulls have been in the league since the inaugural season in 1994). On May 21st, 2013 after shopping around for a bit, NYCFC was officially announced as the newest club in MLS. The ownership was shared by City Football Group (80%) and Yankee Global Enterprises (20%). You may know the two groups more familiarly as owners of Manchester City and the New York Yankees, respectively. Thus began the process of naming a coaching staff, front office, and players, as well as looking for a place to call home.

Before the franchise had even been decided upon, MLS had been exploring suitable locations for a soccer-specific stadium in the city. They had submitted plans and proposals for numerous different spots in the early days – ranging from the west side of Manhattan (near Pier 40) to Flushing Meadows to spots in the Bronx. Sadly, for a number of different reasons, none of the proposals went anywhere.

“Multi-Purpose” Stadiums

For better or worse, it wasn’t unusual for a team to not have a home of its very own. Soccer in the United States has always been the “little brother”. The “big four” (baseball, football, basketball, hockey) have long dominated the sports landscape in this country.

When MLS played their first season in 1996, the 10 teams in the league all played in football stadiums. It wasn’t until 1999 that teams started seeing smaller capacity, soccer-specific complexes being constructed. The Columbus Crew would be the first franchise to move into an actual “home”. Today, only 8 of the 28 franchises are still sharing a space with another tenant.

The House That Ruth Built

It made sense in the early days of MLS to have clubs play in stadiums that were already around. After all, this was a new league and, while many had high hopes, there was no certainty about how successful the sport might become in this country. There were definitely bumps along the way, but the league has managed to stick around and grow.

This past season was the 26th, and the number of teams has ballooned from 10 to 27 (with more expansion already in the works). Given the success the league has had, it seems curious that a team is playing in a baseball stadium of all places. I mean, I get it. The Yankees have a stake in the club, sure. But still – there has been promise of a stadium for this franchise since Day One. The club is kicking off its 8th season and still, they’re homeless.

Get It Done Already

New York is one of the biggest sports markets in the country. It’s so big that most sports leagues have multiple representatives in town. The NFL has the Jets and Giants, while the NBA has the Knicks and Nets. The Mets and Yankees represent MLB, while the Rangers and Islanders play in the NHL.

Of all of these storied franchises, it’s NYCFC who can brag about being the most recent New York team to win a title. They claimed the 2021 MLS Cup after a thrilling playoff run. When they had their celebration on the steps of City Hall, then Mayor-Elect Eric Adams promised to re-open the search for a soccer-specific home for New York’s newest Champions.

We can only hope that something finally happens. The team, as well as its fans, deserve a place of their own to call home.

Joe is an actor who grew up eating, living and breathing sports. He spent many an afternoon on the soccer or baseball field in his youth (and even gave several other sports a shot) before a series of events put him on the path to pursuing a performing career. Subsequently, he's worked almost every other type of job you could imagine while trying to support that endeavor. Whenever he's not working any of those jobs, he can often be found watching, playing or discussing sports in some way. Most of that banter revolves around the Mets, Giants, Rangers or Manchester United. His short term goal is to fully convert his fiance into a rabid sports fan, not someone who leaves the room whenever he turns a game on.

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