NYCFC has found itself on the outside looking into Yankee Stadium on Sept. 12. (FrontRowSoccer.com Photo)
By Michael Lewis
Just how incredible and stunning was the news?
When I first saw the press release, I went immediately to the New York City FC website to verify the information and to make sure I wasn’t about to post some bogus news.
It was there and it was correct:
NYCFC was going to play a home game out of New York City.
In fact, it was way out of the city — in another state, some 118 or so miles northeast in East Hartford, Conn. Sept. 23. It seems the Yankees have to make up a rain out with the Kansas City Royals two days later and the Yankee Stadium ground crew needs three days to transition the field from a soccer pitch to a baseball diamond.
That is one of the pitfalls when you share a stadium, a baseball park, with a baseball team. Even though the Yankees own 20 percent of the Major League Soccer club, the iconic baseball team has the first, middle and last words on whether the soccer team will play there.
As well as NYCFC has acquitted itself this season, the Yankees have this bit of a reputation as the most iconic sports team and brand in the country. Like it or not, they always will take precedence.
Sources within the league said NYCFC considered every stadium possibility within the metropolitan area. That included MetLife Stadium, Fordham University and even Red Bull Arena, home of the team’s enemy, the Red Bulls.
I don’t know why a deal could not be reached for any of these venues.
Regardless, no one shouldn’t have to be writing about this type of news or commenting on it, especially for a league that touts itself as one of the great soccer leagues in the world.
And to have such a high-profile team that is in serious running for the Supporters Shield — second only to Toronto FC — to play so many miles away has to be an embarrassment for Major League Soccer. And MLS has enjoyed great success and made some great strides over the past two seasons.
By the way, NYCFC is the second MLS club to play at a baseball park for an appreciable amount of time. Sporting Kansas City, then as the Kansas City Wizards, called CommunityAmerica Ballpark home from 2008-2010.
So, when the 2018 season kicks off NYCFC will set an MLS record for most seasons at a baseball stadium. And without a stadium in site, that streak will grow at least two or three more seasons. Probably more because it isn’t easy to find land to build stadiums in New York City and stadium projects move at the speed of snails in these parts.
In fact, we haven’t heard much about NYCFC’s stadium possibilities recently.
Yes, there was a report over the weekend that architects hired by the club had looked at the Belmont Park as a possible site. We all know how the Cosmos’ bid to build a stadium in Elmont, N.Y. turned out, don’t we?
That venue, Belmont Park, is just over the New York City border in Nassau County.
If NYCFC is seriously considering building a stadium outside of the city environs, it would be sacrilege to the team’s name. The club belongs in the city, not in the suburbs.
Besides, there another race track not too far down the road that has plenty of room to spare for a stadium — Aqueduct.