While soccer has had a long and storied history in New York (link other article), it wasn’t until 2015 that an MLS franchise began play in the city proper. While the league’s original franchises included the New York/New Jersey MetroStars (later to become New York Red Bulls), their playing in a stadium across the Hudson River in New Jersey has meant that they haven’t been quite as embedded in the bustling and diverse metropolis that is New York City.
The New York City area had long been earmarked as an ideal place for a second franchise, and in 2010 MLS commissioner Don Garber announced that a second team would be placed in the city as the league’s twentieth franchise. While initial discussions had involved the New York Cosmos, interest from City Football Group meant that the team would join the league under their umbrella, and the club was officially announced in May of 2013, with their first season slated to be 2015.
Things ramped up quickly from there, with former Real Salt Lake coach Jason Kreis the first to take the reins. Players soon followed, with Spanish international David Villa the team’s first signing. He would be joined in the club’s first season by a pair of legendary midfielders, Andrea Pirlo and Frank Lampard, the three making up the club’s three designated player slots. Despite good form from Villa, that first season was a challenging one, with the team missing the playoffs and losing a derby to the Cosmos in the US Open Cup.
The next season marked a drastic improvement, though, as the team came second in the Eastern Conference. Patrick Vieira’s arrival on the bench was joined with improved attendance at Yankee Stadium, as well as the arrival of stalwart defender Maxime Chanot and the emergence of youngster Jack Harrison. 2017 then saw the likes of Pirlo, Lampard and Andoni Iraola depart, but the team scarcely missed a beat, with Villa continuing to score and Sean Johnson and Maxi Moralez joining in the offseason.
In 2018, Vieira would return to his native France to take the reins at OGC Nice, replaced by Domenec Torrent. With Villa still a force in attack, the team came third that season, but came up short in the semifinals against eventual champion Atlanta United. The following campaign would be the club’s first without Villa, but a more expansive style of football emerged, with Alexandru Mitriță, Tati Castellanos and Héber all reaching double figures as the team topped the Eastern Conference.
While the 2020 season was interrupted by the COVID-19 pandemic, it marked a step forward for NYCFC as they took part in the CONCACAF Champions League for the first time, reaching the quarterfinals and earning a place in the 2021 Leagues Cup thanks to their fifth-place finish.
Going from strength to strength, the arrival of Ronny Delia as manager last season would see the club mark their first major trophy, as they won the 2021 MLS Cup. Buoyed by the exciting young Brazilian attacker Talles Magno, as well as fellow new signing Santi Rodríguez, the team entered the playoffs as the fourth seed, and won their last three matches on the road, including a dramatic penalty shootout in the final to beat Portland Timbers.
Despite Castellanos having left this summer, the club have had a strong season, having reached the semifinals of the CONCACAF Champions League while battling near the top of the Eastern Conference. Now, they are eager to win their first international title as they host Atlas FC in this year’s Campeones Cup. With a deep and experienced squad, led by goalkeeper, captain, and MLS All-Star Johnson and Moralez, they will be worthy opposition for the Liga MX side as they seek to retain the Campeones Cup for MLS.