[Update, 3/12/2020: Major League Soccer has suspended the 2020 season for 30 days, US national teams will not play through at least the end of April and Concacaf Champions League play has also been suspended.]
Soccer is a growing sport in the New York City area, helped this year by Sky Blue FC’s move from the Rutgers University campus to Red Bull Arena—an easy ride from Lower Manhattan and a much larger venue for the National Women’s Soccer League squad. Two other professional teams, members of Major League Soccer, play in the area and already have devoted local followings. Read on for a quick guide to the teams and this year’s big games.
Home: Yankee Stadium, the Bronx; the baseball field is converted to a soccer pitch beginning a few days before each match. Take the B, D or 4 train to 161st St-Yankee Stadium.
League: Major League Soccer (MLS)
First season: 2015
Best finishes: 2016–19 (conference semifinals)
NYCFC, jointly owned by baseball’s Yankees and Premier League club Manchester City, made a big first-year splash when they signed international stars David Villa, Andrea Pirlo and Frank Lampard. They have remained competitive, though those players are long gone. Propelled by veteran goalie Sean Johnson and league assist leader Maxi Moralez, the team finished the 2019 regular season at the top of its conference. Equally promising: a location for a permanent stadium may finally be within view.
Home: Red Bull Arena, Harrison, New Jersey; it’s a purpose-built soccer stadium that gets loud and is used for the occasional international event. Take the PATH train from the World Trade Center Station to the Harrison stop.
League: Major League Soccer (MLS)
First season: 1996 (as New York/New Jersey MetroStars)
Best finishes: 2008 (runners up), 2013, 2015 and 2018 (Supporters’ Shield for best regular season)
The Red Bulls have had a lot of success over the years but have thus far been unable to win an MLS title. They’ll look to change that in 2020, though longtime standouts Bradley Wright-Phillips—tied for seventh on the all-time MLS goal-scoring list—and Luis Robles have decamped for new digs. Midfielder Marc Rzatkowski and defender Aaron Long, a frequent USMNT call-up, will look to continue the team’s 10-year playoff streak.
Home: Red Bull Arena, Harrison, New Jersey; see Red Bulls above.
League: National Women’s Soccer League
First season: 2009 (moved to NWSL in 2013)
Best finish: 2009 (champions of Women’s Professional Soccer league)
After years of making their home at Yurcak Field, in Piscataway, New Jersey, Sky Blue moves to Red Bull Arena for the 2020 season (they played two well-attended games there in 2019). They’ll look to improve on last year’s finish, with USWNT mainstay Carli Lloyd, national teammate Mallory Pugh and former Rookie of the Year Imani Dorsey topping the lineup. The regular season runs from mid-April to mid-October, followed by the playoffs. Find the schedule at the Sky Blue FC website.
Matches to Put on Your Calendar
Local rivalries, crucial national team games—the NYC area sees plenty of soccer action during the year. The pro season begins in late February and runs to early November, including the monthlong playoffs. Keep checking back for more; sides from European leagues sometimes hit the area in summertime (often in conjunction with the International Champions Cup), and the US Open Cup involves amateur and lower-league professional teams competing with MLS bigs in a ladder-style knockout tournament. The Astoria-based New York Pancrypian Freedoms have qualified and could host a second-round game in April.
NYCFC vs. AD San Carlos
The Boys in Blue play their end of a “home and home” with Costa Rican side San Carlos in the Concacaf Champions Cup Round of 16. The catch: it’s at Red Bull Arena, which is not to the liking of some supporters.
She Believes Cup: Japan vs. England and USA vs. Spain
This round-robin women’s national team tournament features four countries ranked in FIFA’s top 20. Today’s doubleheader at Red Bull Arena is the second of three in the series.
Costa Rica vs. Greece
Catch an international friendly at Red Bull Arena. The two teams last met in the Round of 16 at the 2014 World Cup (Costa Rica advanced on penalties).
Sky Blue FC vs. Reign FC
Sky Blue begins its first season at Red Bull Arena facing off against Megan Rapinoe’s Tacoma-based side.
May 31 and August 23
Hudson River Derby: NYCFC vs. NY Red Bulls
The two area MLS teams face off twice in 2020: the first time in the Bronx, followed by a match in New Jersey. Coming into the season, the Red Bulls lead the rivalry with 9 wins, 5 losses and 2 draws.
New York Red Bulls vs. Seattle Sounders
The Red Bulls face the 2019 MLS Cup winners at Red Bull Arena, the lone visit to the metro area for Jordan Morris, Cristian Roldan and company.