An early end to baseball season in New York means New York City FC are able to stage their critical Decision Day meeting with Chicago Fire at Citi Field in Queens, which the club officially announced today.
The locations for both the Fire match and the penultimate home game against Toronto FC were TBD as far back as December when the 2023 schedule was announced.
The Toronto match, falling during the next-to-last weekend of the MLB season, was always destined for Red Bull Arena. That game ended up hit by an extra layer of complication thanks to a postponement via New Jersey water main break.
Decision Day will mercifully remove Harrison from the equation, instead becoming Citi Field’s eighth match of the 2023 season. NYCFC have gone 3 W 1 D 3 L at Citi Field thus far in 2023, part of the club’s overall home record of 8 W 6 D 4 L in 18 home matches across all competitions (3 W 5 D 1 L at Yankee Stadium, 2 W 0 D 0 L in Harrison, NJ).
The club made clear its desire to play the match against Chicago Fire at either New York City baseball stadium as far back as December 2022, so this venue news shouldn’t come as a surprise.
When discussing the 2023 schedule in December, club CEO Brad Sims was quoted as saying “For the home matches listed without confirmed venues, the goal is to play them either at Yankee Stadium or Citi Field. However, we are unable to confirm the venues for those locations at this time for a variety of reasons, including the 2023 MLB playoffs.”
Baseball’s regular season ends on Sunday, October 1, and both the Yankees and Mets were officially eliminated from contention for spots in the playoffs this weekend. Thus Citi Field is able to serve as host for what’s shaping up to potentially be an important season-ending match for both clubs.
This announced location means a true home-field advantage gained for NYCFC. Fans are spared the indignity of another “home” game at Red Bull Arena, where attendance numbers lag and games can feel like they’re being held at a neutral site, which is the most generous definition possible for the home stadium of NYCFC’s biggest rival.
Matches at Citi Field have drawn an average of 19,096 fans so far across seven games in 2023, while NYCFC “home” matches in Harrison, New Jersey average around 5,800 fans, based on the 15 New York City-hosted matches at Red Bull Arena for which attendance data was available.
This somewhat last-minute arena confirmation isn’t a new thing for NYCFC. Last October, the team acted swiftly to shift their game against Inter Miami CF in the First Round of the 2022 MLS Cup Playoffs from Red Bull Arena to Citi Field after the Mets were knocked out of the MLB playoffs.
Nor is it new for NYCFC to bounce around home stadiums. The team’s most recent three-match week against the Red Bulls, Orlando, and Toronto took NYCFC and its fans to three different venues. We’re only one season removed from NYCFC playing home games in six different stadiums back in 2022.
Citi Field has hosted NYCFC on Decision Day before, with the team actually making its first-ever trip to the baseball stadium in Queens for the final match of the 2017 season against Gregg Berhalter’s Columbus Crew, which ended in a 2-2 draw.
The venue next hosted the 2019 Eastern Conference Semifinal match against Toronto FC infamous for the at-the-death Ronald Matarrita penalty concession and subsequent heartbreaking NYCFC elimination to spoil the club’s best-ever regular season.
NYCFC’s schedule has skewed heavy on Citi Field matches this season (eight matches, nine at Yankee Stadium), fitting given it’s the first year of MLS play after the team announced plans for its $780 million stadium to open across the street.
Just three more MLS seasons—and, more immediately, New York City’s Uniform Land Use Review Procedure (ULURP)—still to get through before that permanent soccer stadium opens in Queens and removes all this stadium shuffling from the equation of following NYCFC.