Introducing The Outfield

A soccer site. A baseball-sounding name.

Should we talk about the name? The Outfield is, yes, a nod to the fact that New York City Football Club plays soccer in a baseball stadium. This is a problem. The upper deck stays empty, the acoustics are drab, sightlines are wonky, players slip and fall on the sod slapped over the infield dirt, Yankees homestands screw up our schedule, and people never get sick of kvetching about the size of the pitch. The folk-epic Stadium Thread, an internet chronicle of NYCFC’s years wandering in the wilderness of borough real estate, is at 772 pages with no end in sight.

If you squint a little, though, there’s an oddball charm to a soccer club coming up in the shadow of baseball’s late American empire. It’s a bookend to how pro soccer got started here, back when MLB shared the Polo Grounds with the American Soccer League a century ago. In baseball, the outfield means cheap seats and that remote span of grass where you stick Charlie Brown and hope he’ll never have to use his glove. It’s the greenest part of those “enclosed green spaces in the middle of cities, under smokey skies,” as Bartlett Giamatti once wrote of ballparks, where “after days that weigh heavy either because of work or because of no work, the game reminds the people who gather at the field, in the city, of the best hopes and freest moments we can have.”

In soccer, the outfield means all that freest moments stuff but also something else. It’s a term for everything beyond the goal, out where the real action happens, the ninety-minute, twenty-man melee that gets left out of the highlight reel. We’re the opposite of baseball: here outfield players sweat while the keeper kicks at dandelions. Andrea Pirlo talked in his autobiography about how a midfielder has to be always on the lookout for ways to escape his marker, thinking and moving at the same time. “All I’m after,” he wrote, “is a few square meters to be myself.”

At Yankee Stadium—sorry, Etihad Pitch—the outfield has a third meaning. The left field bleachers are home to the supporters’ section, that raucous, colorful, blissfully tacky heart of any soccer club. For thirty-something bucks you can get a ticket, a beer, and if you’re lucky maybe a bonus beer thrown on you when NYCFC scores. You’ll make friends and sing songs and wonder if these are the same seats that could barely muster a Boston sucks chant last time the Red Sox were in town. It’s a different experience, sitting in the outfield at a soccer game.

The Outfield wants to be all those things: smart and lively like soccer’s outfield, casual and free like baseball’s, and passionate like the supporters’ section. We want to lob ideas into the conversation out of left field. We want to channel the energy of those drummers in the bleachers. More than anything, we want this to be fun—for us, for you, for Jonathan Lewis secretly scrolling through his phone on the bench, everybody.

How will it work? We’ll make it up as we go. All season long we’ll be doing match previews and reviews, tactics and analytics, roster moves and front office talk, maybe an interview now and then. But we’ll try other things too. Weirder things. Things as diverse and creative as our city. We don’t know yet what they’ll be, but you can help us figure it out. So come talk soccer with us at The Outfield, this enclosed green space in the middle of the internet, under New York City’s smoky skies. All we’re after is a small place to be ourselves. ❧

Image: Ahn Byeongseok, Wind Wave