New York Red Bulls II used to play in USL. As of 2019, the team plays in the USL Championship: the top tier of a re-branded USL pyramid that now also includes USL League One (essentially, USL D2) and USL League Two (formerly, PDL - in essence, a summer amateur league for college players).
There has been some reshuffling of teams around the two professional divisions - USL’s Championship and League One - and a few new clubs have joined the league(s). And there may yet need to be further reshuffling, since CONCACAF is threatening to prevent Ottawa Fury from playing in USL this season. For now, however, USL is proceeding on the assumption that it has a 36-team Championship for 2019, with the league split into Eastern and Western Conferences of 18 teams each.
The league has announced its schedule for the year ahead, handing out 34-game regular seasons to its Championship teams. Each club will play a league schedule entirely within its own conference, playing 17 opponents home and away. The top 10 (! - it used to be eight) in each conference will make the playoffs; the Eastern and Western Conference playoff champions will contest USL Cup.
An interesting consequence of USL’s continued and rapid expansion: it will outlast MLS, at least in 2019. Squeezing in the necessary games for a regular season and expanded playoffs means the USL Cup final is currently scheduled to be played sometime between November 14 and November 18. MLS has recently announced it will be wrapping up 2019 with a November 10 MLS Cup final.
We’ll see if playing USL Cup in the middle of a scheduled FIFA international window (November 11-19 in 2019) has any impact at all on the teams that qualify for that match.
But that is a long way off.
For New York Red Bulls II, the 2019 schedule is front-loaded: six of the team’s first nine games - including all of those in March - will be played at home. Conversely, it will play six of its last nine on the road. For now, the II team is penciled in to play its entire home schedule at MSU Soccer Park.
It’s perhaps futile to talk about a “typical” NYRB II season: the team basically reboots every year. So the fact the II team was mostly terrible on the road in 2018 (just two wins away from home in the regular season) need not be at all relevant to 2019. Head coach John Wolyniec’s first task will be to accumulate points in the home-heavy opening quarter of the year, and success or failure in that endeavor will set the tone for the rest of the II team’s season.
Initial highlights of the NYRB II schedule include:
March at MSU
The II-team will be in residence at Montclair State University for its first three games of the season - all in March.
March 9: vs Swope Park Rangers
The home-opener is a repeat of the 2016 USL Cup Final. A repeat of NYRB II’s 5-1 win in that game would be a fun way to start the season.
March 23: vs Nashville SC
This match will be both a preview and a throwback: a preview in the sense that it’s likely some of the players Nashville sends out for this game will feature in 2020 when MLS comes to Music City; a throwback to RBNY’s days of yore - keep an eye out for Kosuke Kimura (RBNY 2013 & 2014) and Bolu Akinyode (NYRB II 2015)
March 29: vs Memphis 901 FC
If it seems like every game in USL is an opportunity to catch up with former Red Bulls, it’s because that is mostly the case. Memphis is an expansion club entering its inaugural season, so its roster is still very much a work in progress - but former Red Bull Dan Metzger is in the squad for 2019.
April rivalry auditions
Does NYRB II have a true rival? The team has only been around since 2015, so perhaps it simply hasn’t had the time to develop one. Or six and counting, as seems to the case for RBNY in MLS.
It also doesn’t help that the II team basically rebuilds itself from scratch every year, so this year’s squad may not feel as strongly about one team or another as the players on last season’s roster. And USL has its share of clubs dropping out of the league (and now there is the option of self-relegating to League One), which can put a damper on nascent rivalries: there seemed to be some heat building under the II team’s games with Rochester Rhinos, but the Rhinos have put themselves on hold for a couple of years.
Recent meaningful matches with Louisville City in the playoffs offer some hope that the teams’ tussles in the post-season bring some additional significance to any meeting between them. Certainly, RBNY seems to be embracing the match-up as a potential rivalry for its reserves.
This season offers two more candidates for rivalry with NYRB II: Hartford Athletic and Loudoun United. The former might evolve into something resembling RBNY’s relationship with NYCFC, if only because NYCFC occasionally gets exiled to Hartford when the Yankees need their stadium. Loudoun United is the USL affiliate of D.C. United. Red Bulls fans can get their first sight of both teams at MSU Soccer Park in April.
April 17: vs Hartford Athletic
April 20: vs Loudoun United
The ones that might cancelled
If CONCACAF succeeds in booting Ottawa Fury out of USL, there will be gap in NYRB II’s 2019 schedule in May and July.
May 8: @ Ottawa Fury
July 5: vs Ottawa Fury
There will be plenty more to look forward to with the II team in 2019 as the season unfolds. For the full schedule and ticket information, head over to RBNY’s official site.