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NY Soccer: The Beginning of a True Rivalry

Red Bulls and NYC FC already rivals.

Matt Miazga (Photo by Catalina Fragoso - DoubleGSports)

Matt Miazga (Photo by Catalina Fragoso – DoubleGSports)


Sometimes you have to fabricate rivalries in sports to drive up TV viewership or generate support, but not in the case of the two New York soccer clubs. The Hudson River Derby or New York Derby, whichever you prefer, between the New York Red Bulls and NYCFC may have finally taken a step forward into real big rivalry territory on Sunday.

Sunday’s match had everything you could possibly need for a rivalry. The day began with a fight in the streets of New Jersey outside of Red Bull Arena between small groups of fans. Obviously violence is not something that is indicative of the two passionate fan bases, but it proves there’s some bad blood between the two sides.

Then right before kickoff Red Bulls fans unfurled a giant banner poking fun at the age of new NYCFC signings Andrea Pirlo and Frank Lampard. The banner showed the two crouched over with canes and the words “City Retirement Home” written above their heads. There were also other banners proclaiming NYCFC as “Man City Lite.”

In the previous match between the two at Yankees Stadium NYCFC fans had a tifo of a “Jersey Boys” Playbill to point out that the “New York” Red Bulls happen to play in New Jersey. Red Bulls fans responded on Sunday with banners saying “We May Be ‘Jersey Boys’ But You’re Awful All Four Seasons.” The banter level of the rivalry continues to grow cleverer.

Then there is the social media aspect of this rivalry. In Manchester each of the two fan bases (Manchester United and Manchester City) claims a color-centric right to their city. They make use of the hashtags “Manchester is Red” and “Manchester is Blue.” Seeing as the Red Bulls are, obviously, red, and NYCFC is blue and partly owned by Manchester City, it seemed only appropriate to take that slogan and bring it stateside. Fans of each team would tweet and hashtag which color their affiliation sided with, and when it was all said and done the Red Bulls official account tweeted “Three matches. Three wins. New York is Red.”

And this brings us to the final part of what will make this rivalry so intense for a long time to come — the Red Bulls finished Sunday’s match off with a 2-0 victory, making it three wins in three matches for the established New York soccer club. This, of course, gives bragging rights to the Red Bulls, and serves as a notice that NYCFC still have a way to go. This will only drive NYCFC players to give that much more in the derby matches next season (or possibly in this year’s playoffs) and for their fans to work that much harder on their big banner replies.

This rivalry is terrific for MLS and U.S. Soccer as a whole. No offense to the exciting and long standing rivalry out west between Portland and Seattle, but any sports rivalry in New York City — the media center of the world — usually grabs much more headlines. It’s not just the fact that it is two New York based teams, however; the match also involved some pretty big worldwide names and was broadcast nationally in the U.S. on Fox Sports One and in England on Sky Sports One.

The coverage is immense, the fans are charged up, there’s big names galore on the pitch, and it’s only year one. This rivalry will continue to grow and blossom into something truly special for MLS, NYCFC, and the New York Red Bulls.

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