On Saturday morning Major League Soccer announced scheduling for the New York Red Bulls and the rest of the league in the first phase of relaunching in-stadium league play later this month. Teams will play six matches in three weeks against teams of close geographic proximity in order to limit travel while the next phase of fixtures is planned.
Red Bulls will open their schedule in Harrison on August 20th against New York City FC in what has been designated a home match for RBNY - in question because NYCFC will be using Red Bull Arena as their home venue for the remainder of the phase due to the logistic unavailability of Yankee Stadium. While this website has recently expressed concern about the long-term ramifications of City making Harrison a second home, certainly in the short-term context of the covid-19 pandemic the situation is understandable.
The remaining five games on the condensed schedule for RBNY will be against other East Coast rivals - both home and away matches against Philadelphia and DC United and a single match in Foxborough against New England. All games will be televised locally on MSG, except for the New England game which will be carried nationally on Fox Sports 1.
On purely soccer terms, the most noteworthy fixtures are likely to be against Philadelphia, one of the standout teams in this month’s MLS is Back Tournament in Orlando. But aspects of the league’s plans continue to raise concern - including an overcrowded playoff format and a decision to allow some teams to hold games in front of live crowds (based on local regulations) that is highly questionable from a standpoint of fair competition and more importantly public safety. One wonders how league owners in jurisdictions such as New York and New Jersey which do not yet allow large public gatherings have signed off on such a plan that leaves their clubs and fan engagement at a strong disadvantage.
Unlike the European soccer leagues and fall-to-spring U.S. sports leagues which have set about completing their nearly-finished seasons this summer, Major League Soccer’s 2020 program was never launched in a meaningful way. The two rounds of play completed in March were not enough to create any dreams or storylines that would be crushed by letting 2020 be a largely blank page in the MLS history books. Especially given the relative success of the “bubble” approach taken in Orlando, the league would likely have gotten a friendly response to continuing this format and staging a further set of quarantined novelty tournaments to fulfill the league’s media and sponsor obligations. Outside of the latter concerns, it is not clear why this ad hoc set of in-stadium phases is being slapped together, just to hand out an asterisked cup trophy and slots in a Champions League not even confirmed to be staged again.
NEW YORK RED BULLS AUGUST-SEPTEMBER SCHEDULE
Thursday, August 20 - NYCFC (Red Bull Arena, 7:00 p.m., MSG)
Tuesday, August 25 - Philadelphia Union (Subaru Park, 7:30 p.m., MSG)
Saturday, August 29 - NE Revolution (Gillete Stadium, 8:00 p.m., Fox Sports 1)
Wednesday, September 2 - D.C. United (Red Bull Arena, 7:30 p.m., MSG)
Sunday, September 6 - Philadelphia Union (Red Bull Arena, 7:00 p.m., MSG)
Saturday, September 12 - D.C. United (Audi Field, 7:00 p.m., MSG)