As the popularity of women’s soccer grows rapidly in the U.S., Alyse LaHue and the NWSL’s freshly-branded Gotham FC want to stay ahead of the curve.
Shedding the Sky Blue identity the team has played under in central New Jersey since 2009, the team will start the season at Red Bull Arena as NJ/NY Gotham FC. Not only is the team looking to draw more fans from the New York metro market, they are looking to grow the city’s foundation for women’s soccer.
The team recently announced that it will partner up with the youth club Downtown United SC and create a second-tier team for their reserve players called NJ/NY Gotham Reserves. The team 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 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 more with opportunities for advancement in women’s soccer. 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, the team’s general manager, said in an interview with GoodSport.
The NWSL has been gaining more media attention and investment with the growth of women’s soccer over the past few years. The league added expansion teams Racing Louisville F.C. and Kansas City for the 2021 season, and Angel F.C. will be added in 2022, expanding the league to 11 total teams. Many celebrities and athletes have already contributed to the development of Angel F.C 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 that 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.”
The 2021 NWSL Challenge Cup is already underway and Gotham FC has registered two wins on the seasons with victories against Orlando Pride and North Carolina Courage, and sit in first place in their division.
Gotham FC is a young, underdog team this season. With plenty of fresh faces on the roster, they are looking for a fresh start with a fresh identity. But they hope a veteran core will help them 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,” Paige Monaghan, an attacker for the team, 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 will move from Yurcak Field at Rutgers University to Red Bull Arena — a soccer-specific stadium that has been the home of the New York Red Bulls of the men’s MLS since 2010.
Red Bull Arena can seat 25,000 fans, five times more than Yurcak Field, and it is much closer to New York. The organization decided the arena 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 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. 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.” LaHue said.