NYC Soccer FAQ: 11 Burning Questions

Andrew Rosenberg
Updated 02/28/2017
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Soccer’s foothold in NYC is stronger than ever. Still, not everyone is up to speed with the teams, tournaments and latest happenings on the city scene. But fear not: if you’ve got soccer questions, we’ve got soccer answers. Read on to become an expert.

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Jimmy Maurer, New York Cosmos. Photo: Mike Stobe

How many major professional teams play in the New York City metropolitan area?
Three. The longest-running local team is the New York Red Bulls, who started more than 20 years ago in Major League Soccer (MLS) as the New York-New Jersey MetroStars. A few years ago, New York City FC (NYCFC, for short), a team jointly owned by baseball’s New York Yankees and English Premier League team Manchester City, joined the Red Bulls. The third area side is the New York Cosmos, Brooklyn’s representative in the Division 2 North American Soccer League (NASL). Their current incarnation has been operating since 2013, though their famous team name goes back to the 1970s.

Where can I go see them?
The Red Bulls play out in Harrison, New Jersey—an easy PATH train ride away. NYCFC hosts games in Yankee Stadium, up in the Bronx right next to a subway stop. The rebooted Cosmos ply their trade down in Coney Island, at MCU Park; it’s also very convenient to the subway, which lets out a block away.

Wait. Yankee Stadium? How the heck do they transform a baseball diamond into a soccer pitch?
While most soccer venues in MLS are purpose built for the sport, a few are converted—and NYCFC’s home is the only one that is primarily a baseball park (the others are football stadiums). As a consequence, the field is slightly shorter—106 by 68 yards—than average, carved out of the Yankee outfield and (half the) infield. The process takes a few days. By the way, MCU Park, where the Cosmos play, is also usually a baseball stadium. It’s home of a minor league New York Mets affiliate, the Brooklyn Cyclones.

Wait again. What’s a pitch? That sounds like baseball term to me.
True, but it’s sometimes used to refer to the field of play in soccer. Other quirks: the home team is listed first in game match-ups, “nil” is used to indicate “zero” and a “clean sheet” is the term for when a team goes through a game without being scored upon. Thank the British.

When does the MLS season start?
All the teams are in training camp already, and this year the season kicks off on March 3. The regular season runs till late October, with the playoffs continuing through November and into early December. NASL starts in late March and breaks its year into two nominal short seasons—a spring and fall, even though “fall” begins at the end of July.  

New York Red Bulls. Courtesy, USA TODAY Sports. Photo: Anthony Gruppuso

So do any of the local teams play against one another?
The so-called Hudson River derby, which pits NYCFC and the Red Bulls against each other, takes place three times a season; the Red Bulls lead the all-time series 5–1. The Cosmos only get a chance to play against one of those teams if they happen to advance in the US Open Cup—which they’ve done three years straight, defeating the Red Bulls in the fourth round of that competition once and NYCFC twice. The Red Bulls exacted revenge by winning a fifth-round matchup in 2015.

What is a derby?
Pronounced dar-bee, it’s soccer’s word (though not proprietary to the sport) for a game between two local rivals.

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What’s the US Open Cup?
It’s one of the most egalitarian competitions going, featuring clubs of all levels. Amateur teams work their way up a play-in ladder, some moving on to play teams from the lowest tier of professional clubs in the United States—with winners then playing teams from the NASL and those winners facing MLS teams and so on. All the local professional clubs will be involved, and there will likely be a game or two hosted in the area come June.

Photo: Jonathan Fickies

Are there any other big competitions taking place this year besides those involving the local teams?
Every two years the Gold Cup is contested by the top teams in CONCACAF (the Confederation of the North, Central American and Caribbean Association Football), including the US Men’s National Team and the powerful Mexican national squad. This year Red Bull Arena will host a Group A doubleheader on July 7; matchups are still to be determined. And there’s always the hope that Manchester City, NYCFC’s cross-pond brethren, will pay a visit somewhere in the area on their summer US tour. Check for an announcement here.

David Villa, NYCFC. Photo: Elizabeth Shrier

Who’s the best player in the City?
Well, the Red Bulls’ Bradley Wright-Phillips led the league in scoring in 2016 for the second time in three years and his teammate Sacha Kljestan topped the table in assists. But the MLS most valuable player last season was international star David Villa, of NYCFC. His touch, skill and finishing ability are pretty much unsurpassed in these parts—and in the league.

OK, I’m fired up. What’s my next step?
Get yourself to a game!

Visit Ticketmaster for tickets to the Red Bulls; and NYCFC. For Cosmos tickets, visit nycosmos.com. For much more on sporting events in the City, visit our sports calendar.

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