As the popularity of women’s soccer grows in the U.S., the NWSL’s freshly branded Gotham FC and its general manager Alyse LaHue want to stay ahead of the curve.
Shedding the Sky Blue identity the club has played under in New Jersey since 2009, the team will start the season at Red Bull Arena as NJ/NY Gotham FC Not only are they looking to draw more fans from the New York metro market, but they're also committed to growing the city’s foundation for women’s soccer.
The team recently announced it will partner up with the youth club Downtown United SC and create a second-tier team for its reserve players called NJ/NY Gotham Reserves. This squad will be based in the New York City area and will play in the semi-professional Women’s Premier Soccer League. NJ/NY Gotham Reserves will play all of their home games at Randall’s Island in New York City, with the start WSPL season set for May.
The purpose of the reserves team is to continue to grow a bigger fan base in the New York City area and to provide young girls with more opportunities for advancement in the game. Downtown United SC is one of the largest soccer clubs in New York City with several travel clubs, camps and recreational leagues for both boys and girls. The partnership will help further expand women’s soccer in New York City and create a great investment for the NWSL.
“We are fully committed to this we're not just, you know, New Jersey and New York in name, but we are going to contribute to the growth of girls’ soccer and women's soccer in both of these areas and we're going to be a strong part of that pool,” LaHue said.
The NWSL has steadily gained more media attention and investment with the growth of women’s soccer over the past few years. The league added expansion teams Racing Louisville FC and Kansas City for the 2021 season, and Angel FC will join in 2022, bringing the league to 11 teams. Many celebrities and athletes have already contributed to the development of Angel FC like Serena Williams, Natalie Portman, Mia Hamm, Abby Wambach, Eva Longoria and Julie Foudy, and high-profile names like Sarah Spain, Jenna Bush-Hager and Chelsea Clinton purchased stakes in their local teams in the last few months.
“I think our league is in a better position now than it has ever been and we are seeing that start to translate into massive interest,” LaHue said. “I think people are seeing that this is a good return of investment in women’s sports. It’s not just charity, you’re not just doing it because it is the right thing to do. This is actually a good place to invest your money and you’re going to get a return on it because we are a massively growing league and rapidly growing league.”
With the 2021 NWSL Challenge Cup already underway, Gotham FC has two wins on the season with victories against Orlando Pride and North Carolina Courage, and sit in first place in their division.
Gotham is an underdog team this season. With plenty of fresh faces on the roster, the club is looking for a fresh start with a fresh identity. But the hope is a veteran core will help the team exceed expectations, with USWNT star Carli Lloyd, South Korea star Sodam Lee, former Japan National Team star Nahomi Kawasumi and rising star forward Paige Monaghan
“I’m really excited for Gotham FC I think there is a vision, I think we’re what the brand shows and what we represent as a team on and off the field from our staff all the way to our players and how we are going to contribute and positively go off this year,” attacker Monaghan said. “The rebrand is more than just a name, it’s more than just changing the logo, it is really just elevating up with the group.”
The Gotham FC rebrand has been in the works for about two years. The team is moving from Yurcak Field at Rutgers University to Red Bull Arena—a stadium specifically built for soccer that has been home to MLS's New York Red Bulls since 2010.
Red Bull Arena can seat 25,000 fans, five times the capacity at Yurcak Field, and is closer to New York. The organization decided the stadium was more accessible to fans in both New Jersey and New York—especially by public transportation, as the arena is just three blocks away from a train station that can connect fans from across the metro area.
Expecting that the move will bring in new fans, the team decided it was time for a fresh brand to unite fans from both states, and so far the response has been overwhelmingly positive.
“We are embracing where we are at, both New Jersey, which is our roots, and New York, which has always been a big part of this club, and we know there is a tremendous fan base there,” LaHue said. “They supported us through the years but now with this rebrand and our relocation I think it gives us an opportunity to say that we are really here.”
Paulina Vairo is a contributor for GoodSport, a media company dedicated to raising the visibility of women and girls in sports.
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