This Thanksgiving, the New York Red Bulls are thankful for the dedicated supporters that make this club what it is. This series will call attention to three aspects in particular that help shape the unique identity of this fanbase.
PART ONE: RED BULLS FROM THE BEGINNING
There are homegrown players, and there are homegrown fans.
Kids and families make up a large portion of the New York Red Bulls fan base; 39,105 people with children bought tickets this year. Sometimes these families come dressed in AYSO rather than Red Bulls attire, so dedicated that they’ll rush from all across New York and New Jersey to make kickoff after games of their own. And sometimes, it’s the kids dragging mom or dad to get there.
A lot of this comes from the team’s extensive youth development program. “What the Red Bulls are doing is remarkable,” Peter Schwartz said. “Not only are they teaching the beautiful game of soccer to kids of all ages, but they are also building their supporters base one fan at a time.” One of the goals of the program is in fact “developing lifelong passion for the sport of soccer and the New York Red Bulls.”
Kids can join the youth program at 4, the Regional Development School after that, and the Academy team from the Under-12 through Under-23 level. The youth training programs serve the kids at a grassroots level and they advance from there, giving one of the best professional soccer environment to kids who develop their skill – and knowledge – about the game. The Red Bulls RDS Camp has a player pool of about 4,000 kids a year. The academy teams learn to not only love soccer but also, through opportunities with the Academy to watch the First Team training and coaching sessions, to love the Red Bulls themselves.
The stadium is filled every week with these kids, as well as kids from all over the tri-state area who have developed a love the Red Bulls for any number of other reasons from their youth.
“I was a fan from the MetroStars days,” says Huan Nguyen. “I really remember sitting in the wind tunnel of Giants stadium. But I got really into the Red Bulls again once I was able to drive and go to the games myself.”
“And it was really important to me to support local soccer, because MLS is our league and the Red Bulls/MetroStars [are our team],” he added.
Eric Friedlander, who is now in college, became a fan around 2001 when his parents started to bring him. “Back in the day they had a kids fanatics club and I was a part of that. [And] as I grew older, it was just natural to become a bigger and bigger fan. You don’t give up when you follow from such a young age.”
So thank you, for not only Running With Us, but growing with us, too.