The Third Rail: How It Feels to Support New York City FC, the Team That Doesn't Yet Exist
The Third Rail is the name of the supporters group for New York City FC, a team that has yet to play a game, put together a full squad, or find a permanent stadium. And up until the 11 a.m. hour on Thursday, they didn't know what their team's jersey would look like.
Well, it turns out the new jersey looks a lot like the old jersey. The old jersey being that of Manchester City FC, the Premier League team with which NYC FC shares an owner, the City Football Group. (The Yankees are a minority owner and the team will play its first season at Yankee Stadium, beginning this March.)
"All they did was add MLS logos to the arms and the NYC FC crest to the left chest," Jeff Weisinger, a 27-year-old Third Rail member from Yonkers, said about the shirt shortly after it was unveiled on Thursday during an event sponsored by the club at Terminal 5. The look is nearly identical to Man City's familiar sky-blue-and-white colorway.
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While reactions to the the jersey were lukewarm, the bubbly enthusiasm of the supporters in attendance washed over any subdued reactions to the uniform reveal. New Yorkers have a reputation for being unforgiving to their losing sports franchises, and this team, like all of them, is going to let them down eventually -- but it hasn't yet. About 50 supporters lined up on green Astroturf rolled out in front of Terminal 5 -- all of them members of a group that, so far, has conducted most of its business online.
"We meet through Facebook, and there's a website, NYC FC Forums, where all our random supporters got together and had discussions," said Jerzy Kurjanski of Queens. "We had a vote on what we were going to call the supporters group -- that's where we got the Third Rail. We voted on the flags, on the scarves. We want to be prepared for the season to start." While Kurjanski was speaking, another supporter appeared behind me to hand over a flyer advertising all of the team's social-media accounts.
A floor-to-ceiling banner of a stadium hangs in Terminal 5. This was as close as anyone got to talking about an actual stadium.
Kurjanski blanched at the idea of the team building its stadium in New Jersey. And he's not alone. Most Third Rail members, of whom he notes there are about a thousand, want to see a stadium built within the five boroughs. Several locations have been reported in the media -- near Yankee Stadium in the Bronx, Flushing Meadows Corona Park, Aqueduct Racetrack -- but none have appeared to solidify.
"Having a stadium in the center of New York would be amazing," said Justin Levine, a 14-year-old who skipped school to attend the event.
"They are not putting [the stadium] in Jersey," Roni Hahitti, 20, said coldly. "We might not have the best identity as a team, but as a supporters group we feel like we have a great identity."
"We're better than Orlando, for sure," Levine added.
The New York Red Bulls, the city's other MLS franchise, is located across the Hudson, and Newark Bay, in Harrison, New Jersey. The nascent rivalry was marked Thursday with a banner that read "NJ 4 NYC FC," and a few supporters borrowed a familiar Premier League chant, "There's only one team in New York, there's only one team in New York," toward the end of the unveiling presentation, swapping "London" for "New York."
A few Third Rail members say they are former Red Bulls supporters, and a few more support Manchester United, City's biggest rival in the Premier League.
"I'm a New York fan first and foremost. Who I like overseas doesn't matter. I don't go to their games," said Kurjanski, a Man U fan.
And Deron Jenkins, 23, of Brooklyn, shook his head when asked if he felt guilty for crossing over from the Red Bulls to the new club.
"The Red Bulls, I really didn't get into in the first place, so it wasn't really a hard switch for me to go from one team to the other. But I do get flak once in a while. One of my friends is a really big [Thierry] Henry fan, so he was like, 'You're a fan of them now? Naaaahhhhhh.' "A giant jersey drops with Jay-Z and smoke machines.
There was no away kit revealed on Thursday, but a design has already been finalized, according to various reports (here and here). The away shirt traditionally gives clubs an opportunity to be a little more adventurous with respect to design.
The morning's presentation included an appearance by David Villa (pictured above), the Spanish legend who has already signed with the club, as well as remarks from James Hogan, the Australian president of the Abu Dhabi-based Etihad Airways. As with Manchester City, the airline's logo will appear on the front of NYC FC's shirts. Fans also received a hard sell for tickets from Tim Pernetti, the club's chief business officer:
"Bring your friends," Pernetti told the crowd standing beneath a disco ball on Terminal 5's dance floor. "Think about it like building a fire. Everybody throws a log on this fire, it burns higher and brighter and stronger. Build a passion, bottle it. Because on March 15 next year, we want you guys to let it fly. We want you to let it fly."
With that comment, Pernetti also revealed the date of the first home game for NYC FC.
Soccer blogger Dave Martinez reports that Pernetti said about 11,000 season tickets have been sold to see the team at Yankee Stadium next season.
Now they just need to fill the roster.
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