The New York Yankees are on the verge of clinching their 41st World Series appearance in franchise history with a win over the Houston Astros tonight. Right now the Yankees’ success is New York City FC’s greatest enemy as the Yankees will force NYCFC to find an alternate venue for their MLS Cup run. Below is a breakdown of when NYCFC would have to play matches as well as where they’d be able to play in the coming weeks.
The following are the stadiums most likely to be on NYCFC’s short list. Each stadium holds over 15,000 spectators and they are all located relatively close to New York City. The first five stadiums are all natural grass fields which was mentioned by Patrick Vieira as a crucial factor in selecting an alternate venue.
NYCFC plays their home games at Yankee Stadium, which makes it the preferred venue for most fans and season ticket holders. It’s easily accessible and familiar territory for fans, players and staff. The New York Yankees deep playoff run has been an issue, and will continue to be an issue going forward.
From one baseball stadium to another. CitiField is home of the New York Mets and no stranger to soccer, having hosted 4 matches prior to the upcoming NYCFC match this weekend. The last soccer match hosted at CitiField was a friendly between Israel and Honduras on June 2, 2013 which drew 26,170 fans. Capacity for the baseball stadium is 41,800; smaller than Yankee Stadium but still large by MLS standards.
The natural grass pitch and willingness to work with NYCFC despite being part owned by cross-town MLB rivals New York Yankees may be a sign of things to come for the MLS side.
Pratt & Whitney Stadium at Rentschler Field
NYCFC had to relocate a regular season match against the Houston Dynamo on September 23 from Yankee Stadium to Pratt & Whitney Stadium at Rentschler Field in East Hartford, Connecticut to accommodate the Yankees. Poor attendance in the 40,000 seat venue and outrage from most fans and season ticket holders over the distance to the stadium makes this an unlikely choice at first glance, however the grass field and general availability may be too much to pass up.
The college football stadium is closer to Yankee Stadium than Pratt & Whitney Stadium and has a natural grass surface. However much like the UConn stadium, Yale’s campus isn’t easily accessible by mass transit from New York City and fans would have to take the MetroNorth to New Haven and find transportation to the stadium from there. The grass field and capacity up to 61,446 could make it a tempting draw for NYCFC’s front office.
Red Bull Arena
Some NYCFC season ticket holders would rather forfeit a match than play a home game in Harrison, New Jersey, however Red Bull Arena is the closest soccer specific stadium to New York City. The biggest issue for NYCFC, aside from the fact that they’d face massive fan backlash is the fact that the Red Bulls are also in the playoffs making this scenario dead on arrival.
Robert K. Kraft Field at Lawrence A. Wien Stadium
The college football stadium is easily accessible for New York City residents with Subway and MetroNorth stations within walking distance. The location is familiar to NYCFC as well, with the New York Times reporting that the team had considered building a stadium in the residential Manhattan neighborhood in 2015.
Despite the easy access via mass transit, the stadium has the lowest capacity of all stadiums on this list at 17,000. In addition to the reduced capacity, there is a track which would separate fans from the action, which while giving a match a “European feel” may not play well on national television.
The massive 82,500 seat NFL stadium in East Rutherford, New Jersey has hosted a slew of international soccer matches and is in the running to be a potential venue for the United State’s 2026 World Cup bid. Access to New Jersey transit, which departs from Penn Station makes reaching the venue more palatable than a match in Hartford, however with both the Jets and Giants in their NFL season it would be extremely difficult to convince either team to let NYCFC borrow the stadium for a day. The short availability windows and FieldTurf surface make this a less likely option.
The football stadium at the United States Military Academy at West Point seats 38,000 in a beautiful setting alongside the Hudson River less than 50 miles from Yankee Stadium. Of course there are many drawbacks, the most apparent is the lack of public transportation to the stadium which would force fans to drive to the stadium. A synthetic surface and the lack of alcohol sales in the stadium make this even more unlikely for NYCFC and MLS.
Princeton University Stadium
The 27,800 seat college football stadium is less than 60 miles away from midtown Manhattan, however the lack of public transportation and FieldTurf field likely place this stadium towards the bottom of the list as far as NYCFC’s options are concerned as it would please neither Patrick Vieira or fans as they would likely be opposed to a home match in New Jersey so far from public transportation, but given the lack of large venues in the area, it bears consideration.
High Point Solutions Stadium
The 52,454 seat Rutgers University stadium has the availability throughout most of the MLS playoffs and is less than 40 miles away from midtown Manhattan, as with Princeton difficult access via mass transit and a synthetic field this becomes less of an option. As per Christian Araos of Empire of Soccer the site is not under consideration as an alternate venue, but for argument’s sake it will be included.
Here is where it begins to get complicated, NYCFC could finish anywhere between second and fifth place in the Eastern Conference depending on how this weekends’ slate of matches finish. So this becomes a game of musical chairs with stadiums, dates and availability.
October 25th & 26th
If NYCFC finish third or fourth, they will host a knockout round match on one of these two dates.
October 30th & 31st
If NYCFC finish third through fifth and advance out of the knockout round they will host their home leg of the Eastern Conference semi-finals on one of these two dates. (If NYCFC finish fourth or fifth they would not host a game in the knockout round)
If NYCFC finish second they will host their home match in the Eastern Conference Semi-Finals on November 1st as Yankee Stadium will be unavailable on the pre-scheduled MLS date of November 5th.
If NYCFC finish third, fourth or fifth and advance to the Eastern Conference Semi Finals they would host the second leg on November 5th, for which Yankee Stadiums is unavailable.
Got it? Ok, so now we look at all the possible dates and all the possible venues to see where NYCFC could host this slew of matches.
Possible Playoff Dates & Venues
Given the wide possibility of date ranges and different dates of availability for certain stadiums, it would seem NYCFC’s front office has been tasked with an impossible mission. However upon closer examination it seems the most obvious answer, and the one NYCFC seems to have already taken steps to prepare for is CitiField in Queens.
With the Yankees looking likely to clinch a World Series berth with a 3-2 lead in the best of 7 series, Yankee Stadium won’t be available to NYCFC until after the Eastern Conference Semi-Finals. The crosstown Mets are out of the playoff picture which makes CitiField available for all dates except October 3rd through 5th as they are hosting a golf event. The hospitality shown by the Mets may be a sign of things to come for the immediate future.
NYCFC already announced that they would move up a possible home match from November 5th to November 1st, and as noted in the graph above CitiField would likely be available on November 1st for NYCFC given that 2 days is sufficient for the grounds crew to set up the driving ranges by November 3rd.
CitiField ‘ticks all the boxes’ when it comes to NYCFC’s requirements. A grass playing surface, in New York City with subway access and sufficient parking may be too much for NYCFC to pass up. The team is expected to announce playoff venues and scheduling next week. If Patrick Vieira’s side finishes 3rd through 5th and advance to the Eastern Conference Semi-Finals the picture becomes far more complicated, with Yankee Stadium CitiField and MetLife all in use that day and Rentschler Field, the Yale Bowl and Columbia University’s stadium all being used the day prior.
One thing is clear, NYCFC need to finish second for the sanity of the front office and season ticket holders alike who would like to attend NYCFC’s second ever home playoff match.
Following the Eastern Conference Semi-Finals, if NYCFC are still in the playoffs they can return to Yankee Stadium for the remainder of the year.
(UPDATED – 2:30PT – 10/20/17)
Rutgers University today announced that it had moved the previously scheduled November 5th game back to their campus. Rutgers’ High Point Solutions Stadium would be unavailable for this date, freeing up Yankee Stadium for NYCFC.