New York City FC: What we learned from the schedule release

WASHINGTON, DC - SEPTEMBER 06: Heber #9 of New York City FC controls the ball during a game between New York City FC and D.C. United at Audi Field on September 06, 2020 in Washington, DC. (Photo by Brad Smith/ISI Photos/Getty Images).
WASHINGTON, DC - SEPTEMBER 06: Heber #9 of New York City FC controls the ball during a game between New York City FC and D.C. United at Audi Field on September 06, 2020 in Washington, DC. (Photo by Brad Smith/ISI Photos/Getty Images). /

Here is a look at the schedule release for New York City FC

For weeks, New York City FC and Major League Soccer fans alike were waiting for the 2021 schedule to drop.  Originally, home game openers were announced, so teams knew about a couple of games on the calendar.  But with the season less than a month away, fans kept pondering about the release.  Finally, on March 24, the full season schedule was announced, and now NYCFC fans know what to expect for the new season.

With the schedule release, there were quite a few things learned.  Most importantly, the Pigeons now know they will have to split their time between Yankee Stadium and Red Bull Arena.  Nine home matches will be played in the Bronx, while the other eight will be played in New Jersey.  Obviously, this is not ideal, and fans are upset that once again, the team will have to play at their rival’s stadium.

However, CEO Brad Sims attempted to lessen the blow.  He stated the following:

"“We are so excited to get back to our home in the South Bronx and welcome our fans back. While it will always be our number one priority to play as many games as possible at Yankee Stadium, due to a number of unavoidable and complex factors including a delayed start to the season, we needed to engage a secondary venue. While we acknowledge that this is certainly not ideal, our ultimate goal is to win games and compete for Championships – there’s nothing we or our fans want more. Red Bull Arena proved to be a good alternate venue for us in 2020 and we are confident that it will be again in 2021.”"

Unfortunately, his effort was futile.  Fans once again expressed anger and disappointment on social media platforms, and for a worthy reason too.  It is bad enough to be kicked out of your home stadium that truly is not a home.  But, to then be forced to play at a rival’s stadium?  It is convenient, but extremely unfair to the fans.

MLS also announced the schedules will be less congested this year, with games more spread out.  Thus, this made it difficult to schedule games at Yankee Stadium.  And of course, the venues are always subject to change.  For example, pending the New York Yankees’ playoff schedule, two games at Red Bull Arena could be moved back to Yankee Stadium.  Nonetheless, this is just another reason why NYCFC must have their own stadium.

Additionally, with the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, the Pigeons will play just two games against Western Conference teams.  The first game will be away to Los Angeles FC, and the other game will be home to FC Dallas. Instead of facing other Western Conference sides, NYCFC will face six Eastern Conference teams three times.  They include Chicago Fire FC, Columbus Crew SC, D.C. United, New England Revolution, New York Red Bulls, and the Philadelphia Union.

Hence, NYCFC will participate in the Hudson River Derby three times this year.  Two of those games will take place at Red Bull Arena, and the other at Yankee Stadium.  The Pigeons will then have three tries to beat their rival, and prove again that New York is blue.  All three games will happen in the latter part of the season as well, so those games will probably add an increased pressure for standings, and qualifying for the postseason.  This year, only the top seven teams in each conference will make the playoffs.

Moreover, NYCFC has the challenge to play Columbus and Philadelphia three times.  Both teams were difficult opponents last year, and will probably continue to be a challenge for the New York City side.

Furthermore, despite the MLS schedule supposedly being less congested, NYCFC still have three months where they play six regular season games: August, September, and October.  Part of this might be due to the three week game break between May 29 and June 19.

In some ways, it does not make sense why there is such a long break at that time.  Yes, this summer has many international competitions, and during that time there is an international break.  Yet, MLS has played games during international periods before, and teams will likely be impacted all throughout June and July.  With only three games in June, MLS could have lessened the congestion in one of those months for teams with six games.

Finally, since how NYCFC will play is still unknown, one cannot truly specify which month will be the most difficult.  Arguably, every game this year will be a challenge, and possibly the second part of the season will be more difficult due to the fact they play more games.

In the end, the New York City FC schedule is not as crazy or packed as in previous years.  Of course, the reduced travel time due to not traveling out West every so often will help.  Plus, this year will be undoubtedly better since the Pigeons will be allowed to have fans at a limited capacity to start the season.

2021 might not be perfect, but at least, as of right now, 34 games will once again be played.  And maybe, just maybe, the majority of fans will be able to attend games by the end of the season.