Sunday afternoon, the second of the two new MLS expansion teams, New York City FC, had it’s home opener. But unlike Orlando City’s home opener last week, which also happened to be against NYC FC, this game was not played at a soccer or football stadium.
Instead, NYC FC opened up it’s home schedule at Yankee Stadium. Yes, the same park that saw Derek Jeter and Mariano Rivera and houses Monument Park is now home for a professional soccer team in the Bronx. And it will be for at least the foreseeable future until NYC FC can come up with it’s own downtown stadium, whether it be nearby or somewhere else in the city.
While the stadium certainly works as a temporary home, it’s not really going to work as a long term solution.
It really goes without saying that it just looked weird watch a soccer game at a baseball stadium. When I watch a soccer game, I expect to see fans relatively close to the field and not really a lot of space around the pitch. At Yankee Stadium, it feels, at least on television, that the fans are far away from the action. It doesn’t seem as bad as the NHL’s Winter Classic, but one of the best parts of going to a soccer match is being fairly close to the field.
Then there’s the issue of the quality of the pitch. It supposedly fits within the regulations, though it is certainly a bit tight in some spots. But the grass could be an issue, especially as we get into the summer months when it’s constantly being played on by both NYC FC and the Yankees and constantly being switched between the two sports. I’m sure the grounds crew in the Bronx is really good, but it’ll be quite the challenge to keep the grass in top shape this year.
There’s also the novelty factor in all of this as well. Sure, it might be fun for viewers and the supporters at the stadium for the first few games, but how long will it be “cool” that there’s a soccer team playing at a baseball stadium? Possibly more importantly, how long will it take for fans to realize that watching a soccer game from a distant position at a baseball stadium just isn’t worth the price?
Of course, so far soccer at Yankee Stadium has been largely successful. In fact, there’s been a number of soccer matches that have been played at that stadium since it opened in 2009. Real Madrid, Chelsea, PSG and Spain have each played a match there. The previous soccer match to be played at the stadium between Manchester City and Liverpool drew a little over 49,600 fans.
But again, that was because it was still a novelty. After 17 home matches, I honestly don’t know if seeing a soccer game at will still seem as fun and exciting. So NYC FC is on the clock to find a spot to build a nice, new soccer-specific stadium to keep up the momentum they seem to have in the Big Apple.