By Stephen Fragano
New York City is one of the most well-represented cities in the country, and possibly even the world, when it comes to sports. However, up until this past March, the extremely globalized and diverse Big Apple seemed to possess a void when it came to one of the most global of sports: soccer.
One of Major League Soccer’s two newest expansion teams, New York City Football Club (NYCFC), calls Yankee Stadium, and obviously New York City, home. Though the New York Red Bulls of the MLS have represented New York for the past several years, the team’s location in Harrison, New Jersey, arguably made it more difficult for those in New York City and points north to come to the stadium and support the team to the fullest extent. With the newest addition to the league, soccer lovers of the melting pot that is NYC can now enjoy the global sport, and the team is also gaining popularity for the sport with those who were originally less familiar with it.
Home to countless ethnicities, cultures and influences, New York City is already a microcosm. Therefore, it would be foolish to say that solely a soccer team makes the city part of the global community. This new addition does, however, give New York City even more recognition on the international sports stage, and it allows New Yorkers to feel a sense of belonging with other cities and countries around the world that enjoy the same game.
The club’s name alone shows its penchant to associate New York City with the global stage. Unlike fellow expansion team Orlando City Soccer Club, NYCFC chose to declare themselves a “Football Club” rather than a “Soccer Club.”
Football, futbol or other names of the sort are rather recognizable internationally as signifying what Americans know as soccer. Whether this was an intentional attempt to gain international recognition or if the name was meant to mirror that of sister team Manchester City Football Club, the subtle flair in the club’s name can signify quite a bit internationally.
The players which make up NYCFC are additional reasons for the city’s and team’s ability to gain global attention and acceptance in the sport. Spanish forward David Villa Sanchez, English midfielder Frank Lampard, and Italian midfielder Andrea Pirlo have all combined to form a formidable marquis for NYCFC while not-as-legendary, yet potent, players Kwadwo Poku of Ghana and Angelino of Spain round out the melting pot of a team alongside homegrown American players like Tommy McNamara. In addition to immersing the team in the global sport, these players’ great skill and experience from countries with long histories of professional soccer aid the league’s and sport’s growing competitiveness and popularity in New York City and the United States in general.
New York’s newest team is in its infancy and may not have had the kind of start for which it aimed. Everyone needs to start somewhere, though, and it appears as though the club has one foot in the Big Apple and one foot abroad.