The Red Bulls’ schedule is already beginning to fill in for next year with multiple challenges and opportunities to train on the horizon.
It was announced on December 21 that the team will be among eight other clubs taking part in the the 2019 Mobile Mini Sun Cup. This was later confirmed and retweeted by the team on the official Twitter account later that day.
The tournament, hosted by USL Championship side Phoenix Rising and USL League One side FC Tucson, will run from Wednesday, February 6 to Saturday, February 23. The rest of the field is comprised seven teams from Major League Soccer (Houston Dynamo, Seattle Sounders, FC Dallas, Portland Timbers, Sporting KC, Real Salt Lake, and Minnesota United) and the hosts from Phoenix.
This will be New York’s sixth time playing in the tournament since its inception in 2011. The team’s best performance came in 2011, under the event’s previous name “The Desert Cup,” where they finished in second place to Sporting Kansas City.
The following two years saw New York finish in fourth place back-to-back, but as the event has expanded to include more competitors the Bulls’ performances have been less than stellar. In 2017, the team finished fifth out of six teams with their only win coming against bottom table New York City FC, 2-0. The next year, a similar outcome prevailed as the squad finished fifth again, this time out of ten teams, with the only victory coming against Phoenix Rising, 3-2.
It’s easy to dismiss these kinds of preseason friendly tournaments as meaningless, especially considering the random balance of MLS and lower division teams that take part every year. However following the success of both the first and second teams (Red Bulls II of USL Championship) in 2018, this will be a great time to start preparing younger or new talent for the main squad. Players like Amando Moreno, who lead in goals for Red Bulls II last season with 11, who may be ready to make the jump can be tested or new signed talent like defender Amro Tarek from Orlando City SC can get their first taste of competitive play with the Harrison side coming February.
This will be one of the best ways to prepare the team not only for the regular season, but also for the upcoming Champions League Round of 16 series against Atlético Pantoja – with Leg 1 falling on February 20 in the Dominican Republic.