HARRISON, N.J. — Kemar Lawrence vividly remembers the first time he played at Red Bull Arena. It was with the Jamaican national team and the opponent was Serbia on May 26, 2014.
“I posted something that night that I want this to be my home, and it eventually happened,” Lawrence said.
At the time, the fullback was with Harbour View in Jamaica, but Lawrence would made the soccer-specific stadium in New Jerseye his home 10 months later following an impressive preseason trial with the New York Red Bulls.
Lawrence cherishes every moment he gets to play at one of the cathedrals of soccer in the United States, and he’s hoping to do so while representing Jamaica again at next summer’s Concacaf Gold Cup.
On Friday, Red Bull Arena was named one of 15 venues in 13 cities for the tournament’s next edition. It is also the lone venue in the New York metropolitan area.
The tournament will also be played in soccer-specific stadiums Banc of California Stadium in Los Angeles, Children’s Mercy Park in Kansas City, Mo., BBVA Compass Stadium in Houston and Toyota Stadium in Frisco, Texas, as well as larger football venues including Lincoln Financial Field in Philadelphia, Bank of America Stadium in Charlotte, N.C., and FirstEnergy Stadium in Cleveland.
“It’s always amazing to play here, let me just say that at first,” Lawrence said of Red Bull Arena. “But I really want to play here [in the Gold Cup]. I really hope I get one of those games that is going to be played here.”
This will mark the fourth time Red Bull Arena, the 25,000-seat stadium that opened in 2010, will host Gold Cup matches, also doing so in 2011, 2013 and 2017.
“I think it’s a testament to our arena, the local community, the marketplace and ultimately our staff and its ability to put on big tentpole events,” Red Bulls general manager Marc de Grandpre said. “We look forward to being a host city for the Gold Cup in 2019.”
The 2019 Gold Cup will feature an expanded field of 16 teams for the first time. A berth in the 2021 FIFA Confederations Cup is on the line for the winner.
“I think the Gold Cup is a big deal for everyone in the region,” Red Bulls coach Jesse Marsch said. “It’s good for some of the smaller nations because they get to compete in a big-time international tournament and it’s obviously very important for the top four nations because it’s a chance to get to Confederations Cup. … To have it here I think will be great and hopefully the U.S. can play here too.”