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Why NYCFC plans to play its first home match of 2022 in Los Angeles

A corner flag is seen during a weather

A corner flag is seen during a weather delay in the quarterfinals match of the Leagues Cup 2021 between Pumas and NYCFC of Yankee Stadium on August 11, 2021. Credit: Getty Images/Rich Schultz

New York City FC’s first home match of 2022 will be anything but for fans who live in the five boroughs.

That’s been the case somewhat regularly since 2020, when the club began using Red Bull Arena in New Jersey as an alternate venue. Yet supporters expecting to attend NYCFC’s home leg of the CONCACAF Champions League Round of 16 will have a few more miles to travel — nearly 3,000 miles, that is.

NYCFC will play host at Banc of California Stadium in Los Angeles, home of LAFC, against Santos de Guápiles FC of Costa Rica on Feb. 23, the club said in a news release Tuesday. Kickoff is set for 6 p.m. Eastern. The team then will stay in the Los Angeles area to begin the MLS regular season against LA Galaxy on Feb. 27 at Dignity Health Sports Park in Carson, California.

City qualified for the CCL thanks to its penalty-kick victory over the Portland Timbers in the 2021 MLS Cup last December, the club’s first title of any kind in seven seasons of existence. That result, however, complicated its already difficult scheduling issues for 2022. Still without its own home venue entering its eighth season, NYCFC plans to play its MLS home matches at Yankee Stadium and Citi Field in 2022, with one match set for Red Bull Arena. The club also is expected to host the Campeones Cup against the Mexican champion in late summer, another perk of the MLS Cup victory.

According to the release, both baseball stadiums remain unapproved by CONCACAF for its international club competition, an issue that forced NYCFC to play two CCL home matches at Red Bull Arena in early 2020 prior to the COVID-19 stoppage. The home of the Red Bulls remains the only CONCACAF-approved ground in the area, but stadium and pitch renovations will keep NYCFC from using its rival’s home for this match.

"It is frustrating that this home game will be played on the other side of the country," said NYCFC chief executive Brad Sims in a statement. "However, with our season opener at LA Galaxy only a few days later and our inability to play at Yankee Stadium or one of our alternative home venues, we felt that this arrangement gave our club the best possible chance for two positive results that week as we look to do well in CCL and begin the defense of the title."

 

NYCFC first will travel to San Jose, Costa Rica, to face Santos de Guápiles in the opening leg on Feb. 15 at 8 p.m. This is NYCFC’s second appearance in the CONCACAF Champions League. In 2020, the club beat AD San Carlos, also of Costa Rica, in the Round of 16 before losing to Mexican side Tigres in the quarterfinal.

With this year’s CCL home opener now to be played across the country, the MLS Cup champions won’t make their home debut until March 12 when NYCFC hosts CF Montréal at Yankee Stadium.

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