National Women’s Soccer League team Sky Blue FC will play its home games next season at Red Bull Arena, the home of Major League Soccer franchise New York Red Bulls.
The move comes after Sky Blue played two games at Red Bull Arena in 2019 due to high fan demand following the Women’s World Cup in France. The team previously played at the 5,000-capacity Yurcak Field on the campus of Rutgers University in Piscataway, New Jersey, which was difficult to reach by public transport.
In June, Sky Blue general manager Alyse LaHue told SportBusiness that the club was looking to move to another stadium in the longer term in order to find new relevance.
In 10 home matches at Yurcak Field in 2019, Sky Blue averaged just 2,233 fans. But the team averaged 8,865 fans in its two matches at the 25,000-capacity Red Bull Arena, in Harrison, New Jersey. It is unclear how much rent Sky Blue will be paying or what percentage of game-day revenues they will share in.
“After our players and fans experienced Red Bull Arena in 2019, we knew it was the perfect venue to host Sky Blue and showcase this incredible league,” LaHue said. “We’re extremely grateful to the Red Bulls organization for all their efforts in reaching this agreement, and will always remain thankful to Rutgers for their commitment to Sky Blue throughout the years. The move to Red Bull Arena builds upon the positive momentum we gained last season and will help propel our club and the league to the next level.”
In a similar move, NWSL rivals Washington Spirit will play four of its 12 home games next year at Audi Field, the home of MLS team DC United. An additional four games will be played at Segra Field, the home of the USL Championship affiliate Loudoun United, with remaining fixtures at Maryland SoccerPlex. This will increase to seven home matches at Audi Field and five at Segra Field in 2021.
The NWSL is preparing for a transition in the off-season, with US Soccer expected to step away from its management role in the coming months. In preparation of this, the NWSL has appointed Octagon as a consultant to advise the league on its media- and marketing-rights strategy globally for the next three seasons.
Last week it was reported that the United Soccer League is planning to establish a division one women’s professional soccer league in the United States as early as 2021, which would directly rival the NWSL.