The Red Bulls – NJ’s Soccer Team

by Staff

Soccer is truly a global game. But outside of Jersey itself, not too many soccer fans are familiar with the fact that one of MLS’s best-known clubs is in fact based in The Garden State. In fact, you could be forgiven when browsing the soccer results pages or the sports betting sites if you saw the name of the New York Red Bulls and thought it was just another team from The Empire State. But New Jerseyites know better, because the Red Bulls play their home games out of none other than the Red Bull Arena in Harrison, NJ. This is a Jersey team.

The old name

It wasn’t always unclear who this team represented. From the club’s founding in 1994, through the inaugural season of the new Major League Soccer and up until 2004 when the franchise was sold to Red Bull GmbH and subsequently rebranded as the New York Red Bulls, the team was called the New York/New Jersey MetroStars. However, the club actually dropped the New York/New Jersey location reference in 1998, becoming somewhat unique in American sports due to the fact The MetroStars name gave no hint of a state or city home. The pre-Red Bulls period on the pitch was a relative failure, however, with only one conference divisional title secured despite the club moving through a number of high-profile coaches and players, including German World Cup winning captain Lothar Matthäus.

The Red Bulls

The takeover from the energy drink giant in 2006 saw a complete rebranding of The MetroStars. The rebranding included a change of logo, team colors (including kit) and brand, all of which attracted controversy among supporters. However, almost the final nail in the coffin of The MetroStars was the changing of the team’s name to the Red Bulls New York, or the New York Red Bulls as the club became known by everyone else, including the MLS. Of course this model was in keeping with the company’s strategy of acquiring soccer clubs from around the world and rebranding. The portfolio includes RB Leipzig, currently of the German Bundesliga (and now regular Champions League participants) and FC Red Bull Salzburg, serial winners of the Austrian Bundesliga. But the company’s stock of clubs extends beyond soccer, with motorsport and racing another Red Bull speciality.

The New Jersey link remains

The rebranding to the New York Red Bulls could have been the death knell to the club’s connection to The Garden State, and indeed that was maybe the case to casual observers. Indeed, when the club pulled off the coups of signing French football legend Thierry Henry as its designated player in July 2010, many of the player’s fans around the world could have been forgiven for thinking the iconic striker was set to play in the New York. But fans of the club knew better. That’s because as part of Red Bull’s purchase of the franchise, agreement was reached to take on the existing stadium project in Harrison. The Red Bull Arena opened in 2010 and is currently home to the Red Bulls as well as the NJ/NY Gotham FC of the National Women’s Soccer League. The arena may only be seven miles west of Lower Manhattan, but it is well and truly in New Jersey. With its iconic partial transparent roof, it’s the sixth largest soccer-specific stadium in the United States.

Players and success

The headline statistic for the New York Red Bulls (of Harrison, New Jersey), is that the long wait for a national title continues. Despite conference success, the club are still yet to claim a maiden MLS Cup title, and have also failed in their pursuit of the U.S. Open Cup, despite finishing as runners-up on three occasions. And it’s not as if the club has failed to attract big-name players, with Henry, Matthäus, Juan Pablo Angel, Rafael Márquez, Jozy Altidore and Juninho Pernambucano all having worn the club’s colors at one time or another. The club has developed a reputation for bringing through young talent, with Altidore and current USMNT team player Tyler Adams two impressive examples.

The team’s pursuit of success may continue in earnest, but for soccer fans in New Jersey at least, this is a club that is rooted firmly in The Garden State, despite the name.

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The New Jersey Digest is a new jersey magazine that has chronicled daily life in the Garden State for over 10 years.

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