When New York City FC announced the schedule for 2022, fans were thrilled that more games would return home to Yankee Stadium. Most notably, right now only one match is scheduled to be played at Red Bull Arena. All other matches will be played at Citi Field, which is the preferred secondary venue by fans because the stadium is still in New York City. In other words, sixteen of the home fixtures are supposed to be played in the city, with ten in the Bronx, and then six in Queens.
However, this schedule is now in jeopardy. Currently, the players of Major League Baseball are in the middle of a lockout, which was caused by the owners of the 30 teams. The Collective Bargaining Agreement, or CBA, expired on December 1, and every owner voted for a work stoppage.
As of February 1, it is reported that some agreements have been made, but both sides are still far from reaching an agreement on the full CBA. Then, it was announced on February 3 the league is for a federal mediator to help end the lockout. Both the MLB Players Association, or MLBPA, and MLB agreed there has been little progress with the negotiations. Still, the players denied the request of having a federal mediator, which is not surprising because such a move has not been successful in the past for baseball.
Hence, with the lockout ongoing, there is a large possibility Spring Training will not start on time, currently scheduled to begin February 16. If Spring Training does not start on time, then there is the threat of the regular season not starting on time as well.
The MLB lockout could threaten the stadium schedule for New York City FC
So, why should New York City FC, both the club and the fans, pay attention to this? Why, the answer is simple: 16 regular season home games are set to be played in baseball stadiums. Therefore, if the MLB regular season is delayed, then the schedule for the Yankees and Mets will likely be changed. A change in their schedules will undoubtedly impact the Pigeons.
Unfortunately, as it has been said numerous times, NYCFC is just a guest at Yankee Stadium. Yes, it is the primary home for the club, but alas, their schedule is determined by the Yankees and their schedule. This is evident even in 2022; the Bronx side is supposed to play six times in Queens and once in New Jersey after all.
Consequently, a delayed start with MLB will likely mean NYCFC will have to adjust where they play their regular season matches. There is no way the Yankees, Mets, and MLB would consider the MLS team’s schedule, so fans should be paying attention to the lockout. Possibly, a delayed start could mean the Pigeons’ game locations are just switched around. For example, a game that was supposed to be at Yankee Stadium could be switched to Citi Field, or vice versa. But as luck would have it, there is a higher chance for more fixtures to be moved to the dreaded Red Bull Arena.
Over the last two seasons, fans expressed their unhappiness about having to play in New Jersey, especially at their rival’s home. Whether it was through social media or just plain out boycotting matches at Red Bull Arena, their voices were heard. That was why the club worked hard to ensure fixtures that could not be at Yankee Stadium were predominantly moved to Citi Field.
For this reason, it is vital that the MLB lockout ends. Otherwise, moving multiple games back to New Jersey could be detrimental for the MLS Cup Champions. It is guaranteed fans would boycott the fixtures in New Jersey, which would decrease the revenue for the club. In addition, this is just another moment where not having their own stadium hurts NYCFC.
In the past, there has been a lot of distrust between the fans and front office. With the MLS Cup win in 2021, the relationship has been slightly repaired, but not entirely. The issues with the lack of a stadium remain, and having to play multiple games in their rival’s home would anger fans again. Patience has been lacking, and the club has to do everything possible to keep such a scenario from occurring.
Of course, a delay to MLB’s season is not a guarantee the Pigeons will be shipped off to New Jersey for the majority of the year. But the possibility is clearly something to worry about, and this is something the team should start planning for. Ideally, any moves that would be necessary would lead to the switching between Yankee Stadium and Citi Field.
Hopefully, New York City FC will not have to worry about schedule adjustments at all, excluding possible weather related changes due to postponements. More importantly, hopefully the MLBPA and MLB will be able to work out a new CBA that is right for the players, and does not delay the season. Alas, it is arguably time for NYCFC fans to worry, for until that CBA is ratified, the stadium schedule will remain up in the air.