In a famous episode of The Simpsons, the Red Hot Chili Peppers are duped into playing Moe's, assured that the tiny tavern holds 30,000 people.
Many thought Toronto FC must have resorted to such chicanery with the stunning announcement that Real Madrid, soccer's glamour franchise, which surely had the pick of any huge stadium in North America, were coming to 20,000-seat BMO Field. But Paul Beirne, senior director of business operations for Maple Leaf Sports and Entertainment Ltd., said there was some mutual admiration going on between upstart TFC and the Spanish giants.
"It was clear that part of Real's goal this season is to showcase their new team around the world," Beirne said. "So I think they understand what this market means, while we have been making some news in Europe with our attempts to sign players.
"We knew their new president (Florentino Perez) wanted to make some noise with big signings and we had decided it was time to test our market with a big team."
With help from Major League Soccer rival DC United, which made the initial deal to get Real to its 91,000-seat FedEx Field on Aug. 9, TFC was in the hunt and negotiations quickly moved ahead in May and June.
"We looked at playing the game at Rogers Centre, but decided to stay true to our mantra that BMO is the place for soccer in Canada," Beirne said. "We were able to put GOL TV on the table for Real and ESPN will show the game in prime time."
The appearance fee for Real is estimated at $1.1 million with TFC recouping part of that with tickets from $140 to $215, slightly less for subscribers. Almost 1,000 temporary north-end bleacher seats have been added.
Both MLS host teams have been assured the big-name summer transfers such as Kaka and Cristiano Ronaldo will play significant time in the games.
Beirne says the estimated $250,000 cost to truck in real grass for one day is actually being absorbed by Madrid. Other MLSEL officials earlier projected a small profit if all seats are sold and concessions do well.