NEW YORK CITY — Sky Blue FC will play the 2020 National Women’s Soccer League season at Red Bull Arena, home of Major League Soccer’s New York Red Bulls, a team spokesperson told Pro Soccer USA. The team confirmed the news Monday.
The move will take the team away from Yurcak Field, its primary home since joining the NWSL. Sky Blue general manager Alyse LaHue told Pro Soccer USA in April a move away from the Rutgers University soccer stadium was in the cards; the stadium is no longer compliant with league standards as it does not have showers for players on site. News of the move to Red Bull Arena was first reported Monday by The Athletic‘s Meg Linehan.
LaHue and company spent the majority of 2019 searching for a new home for the team. LaHue said she was exploring options in both New Jersey and New York, though the club preferred New Jersey as the state’s governor Phil Murphy owns the team.
The team played twice at Red Bull Arena in 2019, setting a club attendance record in the process. Its first, a 1-1 draw with Reign FC in August, saw 9,415 attend the match. The second was the team’s home finale, a 1-1 draw with the Orlando Pride in September, and saw 8,314 turn out for an 11 a.m. kickoff that was designed to accommodate the Red Bulls’ MLS match at 5 p.m. On both occasions, Sky Blue had less than two weeks to market and sell tickets.
All involved perceived the two matches at Red Bull Arena to be successes that bettered the team’s reputation after a 2018 season that saw only one win and reports of below-standard living and working conditions. The venue was an upgrade from Yurcak Field for both home and visiting players.
“Playing in a stadium like this, it’s a professional experience that we don’t get at Yurcak,” defender Estelle Johnson said in August. “That’s not only for us, but for the fans, and I think that’s what is going to keep people coming.”
The professional experience remained a priority for players as questions about a home in 2020 loomed. In September, Sky Blue goalkeeper Kailen Sheridan described Red Bull Arena as “the benchmark.”
“This is what we’re expecting,” she said. “It doesn’t have to be here. I think if it can be here, that’d be great. We would love that, but this is the benchmark.”
Accessibility is one of the Harrison, N.J. stadium’s key selling points, as the PATH has a train station that stops at the stadium, with train service connecting to New York City’s subways and the NJ Transit. It is much closer to New York City than Yurcak Field in Piscataway, which is in the center of New Jersey and is more than three miles from the nearest train station, a NJ Transit stop in New Brunswick.
“The people that are located in South Jersey, it’s going to be tougher for them, but it’s not like we had amazing crowds at Yurcak,” Jen Muller, leader of Sky Blue supporters group Cloud 9, told Pro Soccer USA in October. “I think for the current fanbase and potentially new fanbase — there’s a lot of Red Bulls fans that are in North Jersey and in New York that would buy season tickets, that would come to more games. For the fans, I think it’s definitely ideal.”