Sky Blue FC will meet this week with 2015 MLS expansion team New York City FC, a source close to the situation told The Equalizer.
NYCFC will begin play in MLS next season, joining Orlando City FC as a 2015 expansion team. NYCFC will temporarily play home games at Yankee Stadium while the club searches for ground and funding for a permanent soccer stadium.
Proposed details of the meeting between Sky Blue and NYCFC are unclear, but it is still far from anything as advanced as last year’s talks between Sky Blue FC and the New York Red Bulls.
Sky Blue CEO Thomas Hofstetter said in May that his club had “talked very loosely” with NYCFC.
Last fall, Sky Blue FC was in talks with the New York Red Bulls for the women’s club to partner with the MLS side, but the potential deal fell through.
Portland Thorns FC is owned by Portland Timbers FC of MLS, and the synergy combined with the soccer culture in the Pacific Northwest has led to a wildly successful 13,000-plus fans per game at Thorns matches. Portland is an anomaly, but expansion Houston Dash offered a blueprint for more MLS-NWSL teams, averaging 4,650 fans per game in 2014 and purportedly coming close to breaking even.
Sky Blue FC has perpetually struggled to draw fans to Yurcak Field at Rutgers University, located in Central New Jersey, about 40 miles southwest of New York City. Sky Blue finished last of the eight teams in the NWSL for average attendance in 2013. This season, Sky Blue finished ninth of nine, averaging just 1,656 fans per game. The club also struggled to bring fans to the off-the-beaten-path location in three seasons in WPS, from 2009-2011. Further issues with the crowds involved the demographics; Sky Blue’s fan base is predominantly young girls.
So news last fall of negotiations between the Red Bulls — an MLS team with its own state-of-the-art stadium across the river from New York and backed by a major international corporation — were an encouraging sign to potentially find success for the NWSL in the United States’ biggest market.
But talks ultimately broke down, and Sky Blue walked away from the table, citing a difference in opinions.
“You have to look at Sky Blue as a very small organization,” Sky Blue owner and CEO Thomas Hofstetter said in November 2013. “Red Bull (is) a big, global corporation. They have their other goals and priorities. I don’t mean this in a bad way. At the end of the day we just didn’t feel that from a business perspective, the deal that we were discussing, could get on the same page. It was mainly business driven.”
Now Sky Blue will hope that something can develop with NYCFC, and that this time things will work out. Because for the fifth straight year, the sentiment surrounding Yurcak Field remains the same: There is no way that it is a sustainable, long-term answer for the club.