Sky Blue FC has moved its Aug. 18 home game against Reign FC to Red Bull Arena in Harrison, N.J., a strong signal of demand for women’s soccer in the northeast corridor.
The club’s interim general manager Alyse LaHue worked for months to get a game into the New York Red Bulls’ stadium. Sky Blue’s home for the last decade, Rutgers’ Yurcak Field, seats just 5,000 fans and is a headache to get to from Philadelphia and New York. Red Bull Arena seats 25,000; only the lower bowl will be on sale for this game.
Sky Blue’s first game after Carli Lloyd’s return from the World Cup sold out Yurcak, drawing the third-highiest crowd in team history. The Reign game was also announced as a sellout, in part because the Reign are led by fellow U.S. national team star Megan Rapinoe. But behind the scenes, LaHue was already talking to the Red Bulls about a move.
Last week, the team’s social media staff posted a poll on Twitter asking fans if they’d like to see the game moved. Though it was obviously an unscientific measure, 94 percent of 5,896 respondents -- a sum higher than any crowd in team history, for the record -- voted yes.
“This is a big moment for our club, our players and fans,” LaHue said in a statement. “We asked our fans if they would support this idea and they very definitively said yes. We’re always listening to and looking for ideas that enhance the fan experience as we push this club forward.”
Although the move puts the game farther away from Philadelphia, some fans here won’t object. Red Bull Arena is easy to reach by public transit, being walking distance or a one-stop PATH train ride from Newark’s Amtrak and New Jersey Transit station. It’s also around 25 minutes by PATH from lower Manhattan, which is a third of the time it takes to get from the city to Rutgers.
The U.S. women’s team has played at Red Bull Arena six times. Its last four visits have sold out the building.
“We are very pleased to welcome Sky Blue to Red Bull Arena, and to have this match come together after months of planning,” Red Bulls general manager Marc de Grandpre said in a statement. “Our organization strives to support and grow the game locally, and hosting an NWSL match at Red Bull Arena is a great opportunity to support Sky Blue and celebrate the local soccer community.”