New York City FC marks new stadium approval with win at Citi Field; Moves up in Eastern Conference

Photo By Seán Ó Briain

New York City Football Club (NYCFC) celebrated the recent approval of a new 25,000-seater stadium in Willets Point with a 2-0 victory over DC United at Citi Field on Saturday, Apr. 20. 

Goals from Santiago Rodriguez and Julián Fernández gave NYCFC a deserved victory that saw them leapfrog DC United and move into ninth place in the Eastern Conference table. 

The game began in tit-for-tat fashion, with New York surviving an early scare after DC’s Christopher McVey saw a looping header glance off the crossbar. 

New York, however, had the better of the opening exchanges and took a deserved lead on 20 minutes when Hannes Wolf slipped a wonderful pass through to the excellent Rodriguez, who slotted the ball past the onrushing Alex Bono with aplomb. 

Neither side could impose themselves as the game neared half-time, but NYCFC—backed by their boisterous home support—dominated proceedings after the break, passing up several glorious opportunities to put the game to bed. 

Rodriguez and Mounsef Bakrar both saw shots saved by Bono in the early stages of the second period before Bakrar blazed wide from close range. 

The Algerian striker saw another close-range shot blocked as the game approached the hour mark before skewing a shot wide of the target with the goal at his mercy. 

A sense of unease filled Citi Field as NYCFC missed chance after chance to win the game, but any fears of a late DC fightback were eased in second-half injury time when Rodriguez centered for substitute Fernández with a low cross from the right wing. 

Fernández made no mistake from 12 yards out, firing the ball past Bono to seal NYCFC’s second successive victory following their 2-0 win over New England last Saturday. 

They have now scored 11 points from their opening nine games of the MLS season, which leaves them in a wild card spot in the Eastern Conference at this early stage of the campaign. 

The victory also boosted the New York City Council’s decision to green-light the Willets Point redevelopment project. 

New York City Mayor Eric Adams walks on the field before the game between New York City FC and D.C. United at Citi Field. Photo Credit: Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports

Prior to kickoff, Mayor Eric Adams signed a ceremonial proclamation to NYCFC to signify his support for the Willets Point project, which will be New York’s first-ever soccer-specific stadium. The club currently splits its home games between Yankee Stadium and Citi Field, depending on availability. 

The City Council approved the Willets Point development on Apr. 11, which includes plans for a 25,000-seater stadium in addition to a 2,500-unit affordable housing complex, a 650-seat elementary school, a 250-room hotel, retail space and 40,000 square feet of public open space. 

NYCFC will fully finance the new stadium, which is expected to cost around $780 million and is anticipated to open for the 2027 season. The club expects work to begin on the new arena in around three months. 

Photo By Seán Ó Briain

Meanwhile, Council Member Francisco Moya, a key driver behind the project, held a pre-game pep rally outside Citi Field with members of the Third Rail and Los Templados supporters’ clubs outside City Field. 

Moya told the vibrant crowd that NYCFC will become an important member of the local community once the stadium is completed, adding that the club will be giving out scholarships for children in the community and running clinics for kids to play in. 

“We’re building a real neighborhood and community,” Moya said. “This is not just a team that’s gonna be here like every other sports franchise that’s come to New York. They’re part of the family, and we could not be prouder to have New York City Football Club in our home.” 

Moya said NYCFC has achieved several successes since its founding in 2013, including winning the MLS Cup in 2021.

“We built a brand new team, we brought the Cup home, and now we are finally bringing the one thing that was eluding us this entire time – our own home right here in Willets Point.” 

Felix Palao – a member of the Third Rail Board of Directors – said the new stadium will allow the club to grow in the coming years. 

“We finally have a place to call home after being nomads in our city for the last ten-plus years,” Palao said ahead of Saturday’s game. 

“It means a lot because we can finally plant our flag and now we can attract better players to come here because we’re going to have the best stadium in the league.” 

Palao, who lives in the Bronx, said he will not mind making the 70-minute journey to watch his club play at the new stadium, adding that the opportunity to tailgate is an added bonus. 

“The Third Rail is tailgating at the Marina Line,” Palao said. “So, we definitely have that kind of vibe here. We really don’t get that around Yankee Stadium. It brings everyone closer together and makes us say ‘hey, we’re all here for the club’.” 

The new stadium will be fully electric – a first in Major League Soccer – and constructed on a 10-acre site opposite Citi Field on Seaver Way. 

Jon Stemp, Chief Infrastructure Officer with the City Football Group, said sustainability is at the heart of new development. 

We recognize that if the city of New York is to continue to grow its sustainability and environmental agenda, we have to be the leading edge of that. We’ve envisaged an all-electric stadium. That means there’s no fossil fuel activity being designed into the stadium,” Stemp said. 

Stemp added that the new stadium will include solar panels on the roof to help provide the most efficient forms of sustainable energy. 

He added that over 15,000 people will be employed during the construction of the Willets Point project, emphasizing the need to employ local people in the construction and operation of the new stadium. 

“This stadium will be built and operated by union staff earning a great living wage. We’re excited by that because that’s at the heart of a successful soccer club being at the heart of its community for generations to come.” 

Photo By Seán Ó Briain