Soccer in New York is starting to feel real. This week, New York City Football Club (NYCFC) took a big step forward, identifying its title sponsor and first-ever home uniform as the club prepares for its inaugural season.
NYCFC on Thursday announced a five-year partnership with Etihad Airways, the national airline of the United Arab Emirates. As part of the deal, the airline's branding will be prominently displayed on the team's playing jerseys.
"We are very pleased with where we are headed," said Tim Pernetti, chief business officer for New York City Football Club, which also has signed recent deals with Heineken, Adidas and New York Presbyterian Hospital.
It wasn't all sponsors and business at the launch event on Thursday—NYCFC took the opportunity to show off its new uniforms.
"We had a lot of opinions and literally spent a year on it, but we think it's really unique and feel great with how it came out," said Pernetti.
Made by Adidas, the light blue jerseys feature the club's badge, which resembles an old New York City subway token. The club touts the uniform as the lightest soccer kit in history.
Pernetti said that starting a franchise in New York has been exciting, but it's certainly presented its difficulties.
"NYC is a challenge on a lot of fronts. We are competing with a lot of other things in the market," said Pernetti, who added that the team's goal is to become a more accessible franchise through regular engagement with fans and supporters through activities like youth soccer.
NYCFC will be Major League Soccer's second club in the region. The New York Red Bulls play in Harrison, New Jersey, leaving some to wonder whether the local soccer market could be saturated already.
"Not in the least," said Joe Favorito, who teaches in the sports management program at Columbia University. "This is a metropolitan area used to multiple brands," he said.
Ticket sales have been steady for New York's newest club. It has sold 11,000 season tickets so far, a number the team says is growing daily.
"There is a definite appetite for soccer right now," Pernetti said.
NYCFC's inaugural season kicks off in March at its temporary home, Yankee Stadium.