Where does NYCFC go from here after winning the MLS Cup?

PORTLAND, OR - DECEMBER 11: Valentin Castellanos #11 of NYCFC celebrates scoring with teammate Santiago Rodriguez #42 during a game between New York City FC and Portland Timbers at Providence Park on December 11, 2021 in Portland, Oregon. (Photo by Andy Mead/ISI Photos/Getty Images)
PORTLAND, OR - DECEMBER 11: Valentin Castellanos #11 of NYCFC celebrates scoring with teammate Santiago Rodriguez #42 during a game between New York City FC and Portland Timbers at Providence Park on December 11, 2021 in Portland, Oregon. (Photo by Andy Mead/ISI Photos/Getty Images) /

New York City FC beating the Portland Timbers on penalty kicks and winning their first-ever MLS Cup did well to erase the club’s tumultuous past when it comes to do-or-die situations. The Boys in Blue stepped up big time on MLS’s biggest stage and brought New York its first championship title in almost a decade, invigorating City supporters and bringing about an attitude not commonly found in the Big Apple, especially when it comes to sports — optimism. Though issues regarding their ongoing stadium situation and roster turnover loom on the horizon, this is absolutely a moment that fans of the team should cherish and be proud of.

But it begs the question; having accomplished the ultimate goal in Major League Soccer, what other challenges will NYCFC face in the future, and how can they avoid complacency? A championship hangover can only last so long until the time comes when you’re expected to continue your conquest and move on to “bigger and better things.”

So, where does NYCFC go from here? Here are some goals — both short-term and long-term — that City should focus on going into the 2022 North American season.

Win a Supporters Shield

Having failed to capture any measurable success in their first six seasons of play, NYCFC added their first two trophies to their cabinet in 2021 — the Eastern Conference Championship and the highly coveted MLS Cup. Without a doubt, the latter is the top prize in the league and the one thing every MLS club has as the end goal at the beginning of any given season.

But one trophy NYCFC is sure to be eyeing in 2022 is MLS’s second biggest prize, the Supporters Shield. Given to the club with the most points over the course of the regular season, the Supporters Shield is a prestigious accomplishment that teams should aspire to win — there is even a contingency of fans out there who consider the Shield to be equally as, if not more, important than the MLS Cup. While this outlook has tons of flaws, the Supporters Shield is absolutely a huge accolade for any team to notch on their belt. And by all means, City should absolutely make an effort to win it.

Win the CONCACAF Champions League

With their victory in the MLS Cup Final, NYCFC has been given a berth into the CONCACAF Champions League, where the best clubs within the confines of the confederation do battle for continental superiority and a berth into the FIFA Club World Cup where they will meet the best teams in the world from each region.

New York City had a decent showing in the 2020 edition of the competition, easily dispatching Costa Rica’s AD San Carlos in the Round of 16 by an aggregate scoreline of 6-3. Despite being underwhelming underdogs against Tigres in the Quarterfinals, NYCFC fared well against the Mexican giants for a majority of the first leg before conceding a heartbreaking stoppage-time goal in their home leg. Within 24 hours of the game, the world descended into chaos due to COVID-19 and all sports competitions were temporarily suspended. By the time the two clubs finally met for the second leg that December in a Florida bubble, NYCFC was severely depleted and lacked the firepower to make a difference, helplessly losing 4-0.

But the Night Owls are a completely different team now, and will surely be putting their best foot forward in 2022 (we’ll get to that). And if they can turn those amazing metrics that carried them through 2021 into the CCL, it isn’t a stretch to say they have a good chance of becoming the first-ever MLS club to hoist CONCACAF’s most prestigious club-level trophy.

This should 100% be a goal for the team, and one they must accomplish if they wish to truly transcend football in America.

Find a suitable replacement for Taty Castellanos

We might not want to talk about it, but we have to. Let’s be perfectly clear — it’s highly unlikely that Taty Castellanos will be in a New York City kit in 2022. It was hard enough for the team to keep him earlier this year before he became MLS’s top scorer and NYCFC’s most important player. But now, having accomplished what he has, it would take a miracle for City to keep him in the blue shirt, one that’s not worth hoping for.

The way I see it, NYCFC Sporting Director David Lee has two options: give Young DP Talles Magno his shot at striker in 2022, or look elsewhere for a replacement during the winter transfer window. Taty’s ruthlessness and never-say-die attitude in front of goal are largely what brought NYCFC its first MLS Cup. And if they have any shot of replicating that success in 2022, NYCFC must — I repeat, must — start looking through their shortlist right now.

Get their own stadium

I know, I know… it’s low-hanging fruit. But even after winning their first championship, the discourse surrounding NYCFC, playing at Yankee Stadium, and being MLS vagabonds hasn’t only continued — it’s gotten worse! While their trophy cabinet is sure to be the envy of the New York Red Bulls, the team’s Jersey-based neighbor, their stadium situation certainly isn’t.

Oftentimes, NYCFC’s volatile relationship with Yankee Stadium’s schedule has hurt them in key moments, with “home” games having been played in other buildings such as Citi Field, the rival’s house of Red Bull Arena, and even in some stadium in Connecticut. If NYCFC wants long-term success and an advantage in key matchups, they must have a guaranteed home stadium they can play at.

It seemed like a deal for a new stadium in the Bronx was a lock earlier in 2021, before a last-minute change by the New York Yankees in the proposal reportedly killed it completely. Hopefully, NYCFC can quickly rebound and end this never-ending saga once and for all in 2022.