The growth of soccer in New York City

Despite the overwhelming popularity of the major three sports in New York City, soccer is quickly gaining traction.


(Courtesy of NYU Athletics)

Malone Lohmann, Staff Writer

When casual sports fans look at New York City, their attention most often gravitates toward supporting local professional teams in basketball, football or baseball. The city is famous for its die-hard fans who wholeheartedly attend Knicks, Giants, and Yankees games every year. But the presence of the world’s most popular sport often seems to be overlooked.

With such an intense focus on traditionally American sports, soccer lurks quietly across the five boroughs. Though it may not sit on the premier tier of the city’s athletics, soccer maintains a massive number of fans who not only watch the matches, but play, even in Manhattan’s limited field space. There is even a healthy population of soccer fans at NYU — the school has Division III men’s and women’s teams, as well as multiple intramural squads across its campus. Since NYU is home to such a large population of international students, people from across the world bring their love of the game to their new home in New York City. In fact, many players on the men’s soccer team experience the city’s love of soccer on a daily basis.

“Every time we go to practice, the field is never empty,” said Scott Bayardelle, a first-year forward on the men’s team. “I’ve been there at midnight and pickup games are still going on.”

Whether at Chelsea Piers, Lion’s Gate Field or Randall’s Island, recreational games extend to all corners of the city, as young players and former pros form communities on the pitch. Even though NYU’s team lacks a home field, the players still access a collegiate athletic experience in the heart of the city.

Many people may dismiss the local presence of this global pastime, but there has always been a zealous soccer fan base in the city, one which has seen a publicity boost after the World Cup. At the time, bars across the city held watch parties, students formed alliances and other sports’ fans got involved with the hype. The event’s influence is still alive, as many students have recently gained a passionate interest in the international sport.

“The World Cup sparks interest in the sport just due to the nationalism that all people naturally have,” said Gideon Mosse, an NYU student and avid soccer fan. “For some reason, there is no greater feeling than seeing one’s nation perform well against others in competition.”

Mosse competes in intramural soccer at NYU with his friends, and regularly joins other students to watch games together. He said he’s come across many classmates who support New York City FC, the local Major League Soccer team.

“It’s a secret population that loves to watch and play — it’s just not as publicized as bigger sports like football and basketball,” Mosse said.

New York is also home to the New York Red Bulls, though the team actually plays in New Jersey. Both teams are relatively new — NYCFC was established in 2013, and the Red Bulls came in 1994. With a new stadium coming within the next three years, NYCFC hopes to build on its support and even host a match during the 2026 World Cup. 

Despite MLS not being as competitive as distinguished leagues like the English Premier League or LaLiga, U.S. fans have grown to explore new opportunities that inspire feelings of unity or success for their country or city. Even though soccer is a step behind the major American sports, cities like New York have given hope to people who hope to see the beauty of the game on the premier stage.

Contact Malone Lohmann at [email protected]