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Soccer. Football. FÃºtbol. In much of the United States, it's still the redheaded stepchild of professional sports. Not in Harrison, N.J. OK, it may be redheaded, but only because rabid supporters of Major League Soccer's New York Red Bulls rep their colors passionately at the club's new home, Red Bull Arena. After 15 years playing on literal and figurative NFL turf at cavernous Giants Stadium, where, on a good day, it looked like only 100 people were in attendance, the team formerly known as the New York/New Jersey MetroStars finally moved into its intimate new 25,000-seat, soccer-specific stadium. After going to the Arena opener versus Brazilian club Santos and the MLS season opener versus the Chicago Fire, the experience so impressed RBNY fan and Complex Senior Staff Writer Justin Monroe (@40yardsplash) that he became a season ticket holder for the first time in his life. All season long, he's been bringing friends to matches, spreading the fever one person at a time. Now, he explains why you should go there for the next kickoff...
THINGS YOU NEED TO KNOW:
• The cost of admission to sporting events is out of control most places, but not at Red Bull Arena. I sit just six rows from the field, in corner flag section 104, where I can converse with Red Bulls players and taunt opponents, and a season ticket—for 16 regular season matches PLUS any home playoff matches—cost me $335. I could spend that much to watch my Knicks lose a single game!
• The Arena seats 25,000 people, and even in the last row you have a good, unobstructed view of the entire field.
• While the Yankees, Mets, Giants, and Jets went nuts catering to the suits who want suites, Red Bull actually scaled back the number of premium skyboxes to make more room for average fans. Somebody start a slow clap!
• If you and some friends do want to ball out, I highly recommend securing a skybox for a match. They have great sight lines, all-you-can-eat gourmet food, open bars, and, on occasion, celebrities wandering around. My colleague Donnie Kwak (@KwakaFlocka) and I got to watch RBNY beat Juventus 3-1 in a suite with some rather fly Italian women. Thanks for the assist, Red Bulls!
• Manicured, soccer-specific grass field >>>>> artificial turf field with faded football markings.
• I love beer. Like, actual beer. While RBA does have plenty of that lite swill for the calorie-conscious, it also has a respectable selection of suds, ranging from PBR and Heineken to Newcastle and Hoegaarden. I'll drink to that!
• Red Bull, Red Bull Sugarfree, and Red Bull Cola are fittingly for sale all over Red Bull Arena and that is a TOTALLYGREATWAYTOMAKESUREYOURCHEERSNEVERGETLETHARGICMYDUUUUUUUUUUUUUUDE!
• Juan Pablo Ãngel! Thierry Henry! Rafael MÃ¡rquez! In 2010, the Red Bulls were the first team to take full advantage of MLS's expanded Designated Player rule, which allows clubs to sign three high-salaried star players who only count $335,000 each against the $2.55 million salary cap (every team is allowed two DPs, but owners can pay the league a $250,000 fee for a third slot). There have been plenty of washed-up DP busts in the league over the years, but Red Bulls management has spent shrewdly on soccer gods who still have plenty of life left in their legendary legs. Ãngel, the team's beloved 34-year-old Colombian striker and captain says he probably won't be back next season, which means that one of these big name players may very well be joining the Bulls. The word I've gotten from the organization is that fans are in for a VERY BIG surprise. I probably should pause that last sentence, but I'm too excited.
• Not a Red Bulls fan?
Go f--- yourself! Not a problem. RBA will be hosting the Big East Men's Soccer Championships, and has already hosted friendly matches between RBNY and top international clubs, including Tottenham Hotspur, Manchester City, Sporting Lisbon, Santos, and Juventus, as well as friendly international matches between the Czech Republic and Turkey and Colombia and Ecuador. Trust me, even if you wind up with a nil-nil draw, 90 minutes of hot, fÃºtbol mad Ecuadorian and Colombian women bouncing up and down is a GOOOOOOOLAAAAAAAZOOOOOOO!
• Red Bull wants to keep the Arena family-friendly, but they haven't castrated raging Bulls fans. Rather, the ticket office tries to keep anyone who might be offended by the officially recognized rowdies (the Empire Supporters Club and Garden State Supporters) separate from their endline standing and singing supporters' section. Officially, you're supposed to act like a civilized human being or you'll be ejected. Really, just don't get caught acting like an asshole.
• Where else are you gonna see this?
• The Red Bulls are headed to the playoffs and will be hosting an Eastern Conference Semifinal match on November 4th at 8 p.m. There are still seats available, so you can watch them as they start the second phase of the season en route to becoming MLS CUP CHAMPIONS!!!
• Getting to Red Bull Arena is easy. Driving is an option, but I take the PATH train, which stops three blocks away from the stadium at the Harrison station, costs $1.75 per ride, and takes only 20 minutes from World Trade Center. Sadly, I've never crossed paths with superstar designated players Thierry Henry and Rafael MÃ¡rquez, whose mere presence would cause a riot in most countries, but, as you can see above, it does happen. For complete directions, click here.
Red Bull Arena
600 Cape May Street
Harrison, New Jersey 07029
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