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New York Times assessment of New York soccer fan dilemma


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New York sports fans can be a melodramatic lot, but in January one particular group had become agitated on a whole other level. The debut of a newly acquired star player, believed to be set for the season opener in March, had been pushed back at least three months for contract reasons, and they were outraged. Some returned the team jerseys they had bought bearing the player’s name. Others vowed to boo him when he did finally arrive. One group of die-hards issued a statement saying it “would like to publicly denounce” the club and the player for the delay.

A typical New York fan response to a team’s blunder. But here is the difference: The team, New York City Football Club, hadn’t played a game yet. Not just this season. Ever.

“It’s a very good sign,” said Tom Glick, N.Y.C.F.C.’s president, “to have this level of passion at this point in our development.”

Mr. Glick may be making lemonade out of lemons, but he has good reason to be optimistic. New York City F.C., an expansion club in Major League Soccer, will play its first regular-season match on March 8 and its first home match, at Yankee Stadium, on March 15. It has already sold 14,000 season tickets, Mr. Glick said, and has a fan base rabid enough to get extravagantly upset over things that haven’t happened yet.

Photo

Red Bulls supporters in Montreal in 2013. Credit Matthew Kremkau
“New York City has been starved for an M.L.S. team for so long,” said Brian Toto of the Third Rail, an independent N.Y.C.F.C. fan group whose more than 1,600 members paid $30 each to join. “Now we finally have one.”

Yet there is actually another local team, and an equally passionate set of fans — or supporters, as they say in soccer — that would take issue with that statement.

The New York Red Bulls have been playing in the metropolitan area for 20 years, starting as the New York/New Jersey MetroStars in the Meadowlands before changing names and, in 2010, moving to a $200 million soccer stadium in Harrison, N.J. But the league and N.Y.C.F.C. and its fans believe there is room for another team, in the city itself. “We’re excited to have another M.L.S. team in the area,” said Joseph Stetson, a Red Bulls vice president. “It’ll help to raise awareness and coverage of M.L.S. soccer in the area.”

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