Can't start a fire without a spark: On the ground at the Hudson River Derby in New York City

A masked New York City FC fans holds up a pyrotechnic before the Hudson River Derby game: New York City FC vs New York Red Bulls outside Citi Field in Queens, New York
A member of NYCFC fan group, Los Templados, on their pre-game march before the Hudson River Derby at Citi Field in Queens (Image credit: New York City FC)

The bar erupts. Patrons scream “LET’S GO!” New York City is utterly supercharged by sport right now. This small watering hole, at 38th and 2nd Street on Manhattan’s East Side, is a microcosm of the mood.

But it’s not MLS, the Premier League or even a sport involving a ball on the screens. It’s the New York Rangers ice hockey team, who have just struck four unanswered goals in the final 15 minutes of a vital play-off game to beat the Carolina Hurricanes 5-3 and reach the Eastern Conference final – a semi-final, in effect – of the unfeasibly large Stanley Cup.

In the week FourFourTwo land in New York, the city is approaching it’s-coming-home levels of excitement – the local basketball team, the Knicks, are in the play-offs, too. Four sports dominate in the US – baseball, American football, basketball and ice hockey – but 30 years on from the 1994 World Cup, football is knocking at the door again.

Shooting the ‘soccer’ breeze with locals is a charming-yet-alarming experience. One taxi driver we meet insists he’s au fait with the rules: “Like, I know the defensemen can’t cross the halfway line.” Right on, man. In two years’ time, a World Cup final kicks off at the MetLife Stadium, 10 miles from the sports bar in which we’re sat watching ice hockey.

Soccer’s glass ceiling in New York feels simultaneously close to cracking and rock solid, yet certain moments across the next 48 hours point to green shoots of growth that give the beautiful game a genuine shot at breaking the stubborn States. It just needs cultivating with more soccer-specific stadia and America’s favourite ingredient: wins.

VIDEO America's Craziest Derby - On The Ground With New York City FC

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Matthew Ketchell
Deputy Editor

A former goalkeeper, Ketch joined FourFourTwo as Deputy Editor in 2022 having worked across ChronicleLive, LeedsLive, Hull Daily Mail, YorkshireLive, Teesside Gazette and the Huddersfield Examiner as a Northern Football Editor. Prior to that he was the Senior Writer at BBC Match of the Day magazine. He has interviewed the likes of Harry Kane, Trent Alexander-Arnold, Gareth Southgate and attended two World Cup finals and two Champions League finals. He has been a Newcastle United season ticket holder since 2000 and has a deep knowledge on the history and culture of football shirts.

With contributions from