Thousands of fans, many wearing the home team’s sky blue color, descended on Yankee Stadium Sunday for the home opener of New York City’s first major league soccer team in decades.
Two hours before the game started, cheers cascaded from the 4 train stop into the streets below. Bands of New York City Football Club fans marched together toward the stadium, singing and beating drums.
“I went to the World Cup for my honeymoon, so I’m very enthusiastic about soccer and it’s really exciting to see a New York City team,” said Laura Dvorkin, 30, from Williamsburg, who painted a blue streak under her eye that read “NYCFC” for the occasion.
“I’ve been looking forward to this for a couple of years now and couldn’t be more happy,” said TJ Lutz, 20, from Hoboken. “I couldn’t be more excited having New York City come into the league at the same time I’m getting into soccer.”
“My life basically revolves around soccer,” said Ricky Joshi, 37, originally from England but who now lives on the Upper East Side. “For me, I think there’s huge potential here … considering the other New York teams are playing really poorly, apart from maybe the Rangers that are doing alright.”
Major league soccer hasn’t been played within the five boroughs since the New York Cosmos left the city to play in New Jersey in the mid-1970s.
New York City Football Club, is one of two new Major League Soccer teams this season, and played the New England Revolution for their second game in the Bronx. The NYCFC’s first-ever game was played last weekend in the Sunshine State, ending in a 1-1 draw against the Orlando City Soccer Club, who also played their inaugural match.
The team said Saturday about 40,000 tickets had been sold for the home opener at Yankee Stadium. About 15,000 of those were season ticket holders. NYCFC will share the Bronx Bombers’ turf this season, playing 17 home games through the end of October.
In a statement sent to Metro, Bronx Borough President Ruben Diaz Jr. said he thanks Major League Soccer and NYCFC for “bringing ‘the beautiful game’ to the Bronx and New York City.”
“It shows the great strides we have made over the years as we continue to grow as a borough,” Diaz said.
“I think this is a huge economic revival, with all the history and culture in New York City, and the ethnicity and diversity within the city,” said Steve Olenick, a partner at Kantor Davidoff who specializes in sports and entertainment law. “With soccer being such a global sport, and the ability to expand, having a team is a tremendous benefit.
“Major League Soccer's return to New York City this weekend … follows a strong kickoff weekend for the league,” said Lee Igel, an associate professor at NYU’s Tisch Institute and co-director of the NYU Sports and Society Program.
Igel said the Yankee Stadium venue and new team’s “first-time-ever appeal” is bolstered by the team’s “unique” owners, the English Premier League’s Manchester City and the Yankees.
“Let’s see what happens when two of the most-successfully managed and marketed clubs in the sports world commit serious resources to a new and growing enterprise,” Igel said.