When Major League Soccer resumes following the COVID-19 outbreak, New York City FC may have an obstacle in their way: where will they play?
New York City FC, their fans, and all of New York are currently facing the worst of COVID-19. The city and surrounding counties have the most cases compared to the rest of the United States. Social distancing is the new norm and the question of when and if ‘normalcy’ will return is spread amongst citizens.
Eventually, some form of regular life will return, society will run as normal, and people will be able to hug their family and friends once again. And then, Major League Soccer will hopefully resume their season in some fashion.
And when it does, New York City FC face a major issue: where will they play?
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When the schedule was created, NYCFC had to plan their home games around the New York Yankees. The Pigeons play at the baseball team’s stadium and the flexibility of adjusting games is not an easy matter. Adding to the confusion is the postponement of Major League Baseball’s season. Both MLB and MLS do not know what their season holds, whether they will play and whether the seasons will be shortened.
Therefore, the changes of schedules might lead to NYCFC losing games at Yankee Stadium. Not only do the two teams have to work around each other, but all of the teams in MLS and MLB. There is a chance baseball will begin next month with all teams playing in the Phoenix area without fans. Still, there will be scheduling hurdles no matter when the leagues begin play. And, as discussed previously, the Pigeons are mere tenants at Yankee Stadium. The Yankees come first.
As such, New York City FC may have to look for other places to play. They may be able to increase the home games held at Citi Field, but even then, they would have to work around the New York Mets’ schedule. If games at first are played behind-closed-doors, Red Bull Arena might be another option while the travel for fans is not as big an issue. However, as seen with the CONCACAF Champions League, it was far from an ideal solution and is a kick in the teeth to play in your rival’s stadium.
Additionally, both MLS and MLB may play more games in a shorter period. Since the grounds crew needs about three days to switch from a baseball field to soccer pitch, timing, rather than the schedule, may cause New York City FC to search elsewhere.
Now, some may argue other MLS teams will face scheduling obstacles. But remember: NYCFC is the only MLS team that plays in a baseball stadium and are deemed as guests when doing so. Other teams in the league share stadiums, but most are with football teams. Adjusting the soccer pitch to a football field is much easier. It can be done in less than a day. Football teams also play fewer games compared to baseball and the majority of NFL games take place on Sundays and do not start until September.
Nonetheless, this is something New York City FC must consider if and when the season resumes. For now, health is first and foremost, but as is becoming increasingly clear with every passing year, NYCFC need a new stadium and this is just the latest complication of not having one.