The New York Red Bulls have roommates. Every guest room is filled. The couch has been converted into a crash space.
Red Bull Arena itself is looking more like a boarding house by the day and one of the possible tenants mostly speaks French.
It’s being reported that Toronto FC will host its games at RBA in-order to shift its operation stateside.
#MLS to announce that #TorontoFC will play home games for upcoming season at Red Bull Arena in Harrison, NJ. TFC will share facility with New York Red Bulls & New York City FC #RBNY #NYCFC per sources pic.twitter.com/mbgAI1eF9A
— Clint Bubba O'Neil (@BubbaCHCH) August 9, 2020
This would mean it can host league games against American MLS teams without dealing with the hassles of international travel. Earlier this week, the Montreal Impact were reported to also be coming to Harrison in order to avoid the hassles of border crossings.
Today, it was announced that the border between the United States and Canada would remain closed until September 21.
Add onto that New York City FC, which had already been using the arena as a home during the CONCACAF Champions League earlier this year prior to the tournament’s stoppage, has confirmed it will be using the Harrison, NJ stadium as home field instead of Yankee Stadium.
Outside of Major League Soccer, the Red Bull’s reserve team, New York Red Bulls II, has begun to play USL Championship matches in the stadium behind closed doors.
While it’s nice to feel important and get some additional rent payments, the inability to attend games (due to New Jersey’s ban on public gatherings in order to prevent COVID-19 transmission) will be a bummer to RBNY supporters, let alone the thousands of fans from both across the river and the border. But what if there was a way to unite these four groups from afar while keeping the competition fierce?
In all likelihood, these four teams will play each other at least twice this season since MLS will want to cut down on travel. The risks surrounding COVID-19 mean team staff moving from state to state are high, so the league has already begun to regionalize the regular season. The fact RBNY are playing DC United, Philadelphia Union, NYCFC, and the New England Revolution post-restart is an indication of this.
So, why not make a one-off supporter trophy in lieu of supporters actually being in attendance?
It’s not as if the teams aren’t used to rivalries. Both the Red Bulls and New York City FC are known for the Hudson River Derby, which has an official trophy in development and is one of the league’s marquee matches during Rivalry Week. North of the border, Toronto and Montreal have a blood feud that goes beyond MLS. The Canadian Classique, also known as the 401 Derby and the Two Solitudes Derby, began in 2008 when Montreal, playing in the USL First Division (2nd Div. of U.S. Soccer), finished ahead of Toronto in the inaugural Canadian Championship and qualified for the CONCACAF Champions League.
Since then, it’s become one of the league’s best rivalries.
Probably one of the greatest MLS Playoff series occurred in the rivalry when the two sides met in 2016’s Eastern Conference Finals – where TFC advanced in extra time after a brutal 120-minute second leg.
If all four teams are going to be under the same roof, and fan-silverware is going to be exchanged already, another piece for the fun and unique circumstance isn’t crazy to think about.
The Red Bulls and NYCFC are going to play against one another with the first game being at Red Bull Arena on August 20. Since MLS wants teams to have “20-23 matches per club” this year according to reports, there will in all likely-hood be an “away leg”… at RBA. So boom, the Hudson River Derby is going to happen this year. If what MLS is doing with the Canadian teams is any indication of regular season plans, the two NYC sides might even meet for a third time in the regular season for the first time since 2018.
Now the Canadian teams are a bit different. Their restart is beginning in their home country, with all three playing against each other three times. This is to get both regular-season games under the team’s belts but also serves as a qualifier for the 2020 Canadian Championship. Once the nine games concluded, the best finishing side will earn a spot in the Final against the 2020 Canadian Premier League Champion.
After these games finish in early September, and one of the three north sides plays for the Voyagers Cup, it’s likely the two eastern Canadian teams will shift operations to the United States, more specifically Harrison as things are lining up. With the league looking to cut back on travel, and four teams sharing the same roof, fans shouldn’t be surprised to see matches show up on the schedule later in the season.
The simple way to do this would be a group table with the head-to-head results for results against member teams, similar to how the Cascadia Cup and Four Corners Cup are handled in MLS and the USL Championship respectively. However, there isn’t a guarantee each will play one-another an even number of times. Like was mentioned before, the Hudson River Derby is currently only scheduled for one match while the Canadian Classique already has three games scheduled for the restart. Nothing in guaranteed in this abridged season.
Another option, which I think could be fun, would be to have both traditional rivalries play out as intended. Then, once a winner is decided, those two teams get to have their series at RBA over the abridged regular season. Winner of that, even if it happens to only be one game, gets crowned the champion.
The champion of what you ask? Harrison? Hudson County? New Jersey? It could be called the Dominic Oduro or Greg Sutton Supporter’s Cup since those two played for three of the four-member clubs (sorry City). But personally, the only name fitting of this unique circumstance would be “The War of 1812”, or better yet “The Bubble of 1812”. It might not be the white house but there’s a fair chance the Canadians could very well figuratively burn the place down.
MLS threw together the MLS is Back tournament in no time and that turned out great! A quickly fix derby with historical significance and no fans is the obvious next step in this evolution.
In all honesty, with how crazy 2020 has been and with fans not able to attend, the idea of four supporters groups (with two rivalries included) coming together for a small event with a trophy and bragging rights seems like a fun way to watch from afar.
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