Rochester New York FC has officially ceased operations. The third-tiered MLS NEXT Pro club only relaunched last year after a five-year hiatus. They managed to make the playoffs in their only season in the developmental league. RNYFC was previously the only independent club in the MLS Next Pro league.

“It is with a heavy heart and a great sense of disappointment that we share with you Rochester NY Football Club will not participate in the 2023 MLS NEXT Pro season,” the club said in a statement on Friday.

“This decision involved a great deal of input from many stakeholders including MLS NEXT Pro and was not one we arrived at lightly. Our full intention for 2023 was to reward RNYFC supporters with another exciting season of professional soccer in Rochester. Our fans turned out in great numbers in 2022, cheered loudly, and were as impassioned as the players themselves.”

Premier League star has minority stake in club

Leicester City star Jamie Vardy previously purchased stake in the team back in 2021. Despite the relatively successful 2022 campaign, the club will now be back on hold. Along with financial backing by Vardy, RNYFC was co-owned by David and Wendy Dworkin.

The upstate New York team has had plenty of issues throughout their tumultuous history. Formally named the Rochester Raging Rhinos, then just the Rhinos, RNYFC has played at five different stadiums since their introduction in 1996. John L. DiMarco Field, in the suburb of Brighton, most recently hosted home matches for the club.

Fractured relationship with the city hurt club growth

Wendy Dworkin previously told The Athletic that the reason for the aforementioned hiatus was because of a bad relationship with the city. “One of the reasons for the hiatus (was) a dysfunctional relationship with the City of Rochester,” claimed Dworkin in 2021. “You couldn’t keep moving forward as a professional team with that style of relationship.”

David Dworkin also stated that getting 10,000 fans to attend a RNYFC game would be nearly impossible. “I think that’s going to be a challenge because the baseball team, which has been here for a hundred and something years, only has a handful of games where they get 12-13,000 people,” said the co-owner. “The question is, what is that sweet-spot number? Is it 7,500? Is it 8,000?”

John L. DiMarco Field only had a capacity of about 1,500 people. It now remains to be seen if ownership will be looking to rebrand once again or leave the project alone for the foreseeable future.

Meanwhile, another Rochester-based 3rd division pro club, Flower City Union, currently plays matches at Rochester Community Sports Complex Stadium. The 13,000 seat soccer-specific venue was built in 2006 for RNYFC (when they were known as the Rhinos). Flower City plays in the National Independent Soccer Association, and also struggled at the gate in 2022. In an unusual arrangement, the club has merged with fellow NISA side Syracuse Pulse and will play several of its home matches in 2023 in Syracuse under the name Salt City Union.

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