Gangs of New York

By | March 3, 2015

Born and raised in New York, I am used to the divides and arguments that come with being a local sports fan. I am a Jets, Knicks, Yankees, and Rangers fans, with hatred for the Giants, Nets, Mets, and Islanders. People that approach me about rooting for the “other” teams that represent New York will never understand.

That is why I find the developing soccer rivalry so interesting. Not because the teams are competitive- but rather because one team still hasn’t played a game.


New York professional soccer began in the 1970s and 80s with the New York Cosmos. The Cosmos featured Pelé and Franz Beckenbauer, who, although they were not in their primes, attracted capacity crowds of 77,000 in Giants Stadium. However, in 1985, the league collapsed and professional soccer disappeared in New York.


In 1996, the MLS was founded. New York’s team was named the New York MetroStars. Now, the team is called the New York Red Bulls. Other than the L.A. Galaxy, the Red Bulls have probably had the highest profile of any MLS team since the league’s founding. Some of their notable players have included Tim Howard, Tim Cahill, and Thierry Henry. The team even moved to a new $200 million stadium, though it was in Harrison, New Jersey.

Then, in 2013, MLS announced New York F.C. as their twentieth expansion team. The New York Yankees and Manchester City contributed $100 million to the expansion fees for the establishment of the team. Additionally, the team is expected to play at Yankee Stadium, which is located in the Bronx, a borough of New York City. As a result, people started calling NYFC New York City’s “first” team.

New Yorkers, as is their wont to do, were excited by the arrival of a new team. They had announced the signing of a star player, Frank Lampard. They sold 14,000 season tickets. They began to establish a fan base in the city.


However, the excitement soon turned to frustration. Lampard decided to delay his arrival until after the end of Manchester City’s season in May. That same club owns a major portion of NYFC, leading fans to believe that their new team was receiving “little brother” treatment. Even worse, when the team announced its colors, instead of staying with New York colors dark blue, orange, and white, they chose a variation of Manchester City’s sky blue.

Nevertheless, the team has finally emerged from the controversy with its first game planned for March 8th and home opener for March 15th.

Now, the team is focused on stealing fans from the Red Bulls. Yet, the Red Bulls seem unafraid of a new team, but rather optimistic that the broadened focus will only increase the focus on soccer in the area and increase fan interest. The teams will finally face each other on May 10th in Red Bull Arena and for the first time at Yankee Stadium on June 28th.


I will be excitedly monitoring the progress of the new team and watching to see how fans divide geographically, economically, or any other number of ways.


But, as a New Yorker, I refuse to change my loyalties. You won’t see me wearing Lampard’s sky blue NYFC kit any time soon.

4 thoughts on “Gangs of New York

  1. Harrison Kalt

    Great article Shiv – like Paige pointed out, I see a lot of good that can and does come out of these rivalries. While I do lament the fact that New York’s sporting culture is grounded in in-state rivalry and bickering, I think that the this dichotomy makes New York a center of sporting activity. Because of the inherent rivalry that comes from NYCFC’s introduction to the league, I think that interest in the MLS and each respective teams’ popular will skyrocket as a result of these rivalries. In New York especially, each team comes to represent a certain (though generally not accurate) faction or group of people in the area. To my friends from New York City, the New York Jets represent the grit and heart that is lauded in that area while the Giants represent a counter-culture that rewards flashiness and in the words of my friend (who is a die-hard Jets fan), “complete and utter luck”. In this sense, I believe that people from across the state will begin to draw a sand in the line and attribute different ideologies and ways of living to these respective teams. In New York, sport is culture and these teams take on a meaning and a life way beyond most. I think this will continue with the newfound introduction of NYCFC in a state with an already-established and successful team.

  2. Helena Wang

    This was a great read! I’m also from the New York area and it is truly an area that is utterly divided by which team you choose to root for. I think in particular, having the New York Red Bulls play in the suburbs of New Jersey, and having NYFC play in the city really emphasizes the difference between the fans and audiences the two teams will try to attract. This kind of duality really shows the embodiment of the cultural struggle between urban and suburban.

    Overall, I think the creation of a new team in the MLS really shows the growing popularity of soccer and the desire for American fans to create a fan culture similar to the ones displayed in European soccer. It will be interesting to see if same city soccer rivalries in America will ever live up to the rivalries of the Manchester derby or North London derby.

  3. Dylan Newman

    It was really interesting to watch the NASL’s New York Cosmos defeat the MLS’s Red Bulls last year in the US Open Cup. I know the Cosmos are in talks of opening a ~20,000 seat stadium near Long Island. It would be really interesting to see if with that stadium the MLS would consider adding the Cosmos to the MLS, letting there be three teams in the metro NY area like the NHL has.

  4. Paige Newhouse

    Shiv – awesome article! Hopefully the addition of NYFC will lead to a new rivalry in New York. For me, rivalries show the level of a sport’s success and how popular it is in an area. Rivalries, especially within a city or a region, can expand a sport’s fan base. Thus, its great to see that New York is adding a new soccer team.

    Also, thanks for including the picture of the soccer field in Yankee Stadium. Its hard to imagine but it looks really cool!


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