Somewhere in New York, there are more than a few people who take the rabid fan base of Toronto FC for granted.
Yes, Toronto soccer fans are the most loyal in the league, in many ways mirroring the blind loyalty Leafs Nation shows to a hockey team that charges a lot, entertains little and wins even less.
And, when the MLS announced its schedule last week, there were obvious signs that the attitude goes something like this: “TFC will sell out even if they were to play a reserve Atom girls team from Grand Rapids, Mich. on a Tuesday night. So why not take advantage of that?”
During the World Cup, when soccer fans' interest is, lets say, a little distracted from all things MLS, TFC has three home games, none on the road. TFC plays three with at home during a time of watered-down lineups and interest. That's one fifth of the home sked.
If David Beckham indeed returns to MLS this season, he likely won't play in Toronto for the fourth year out of four. The schedulemakers gave TFC the Galaxy on June 26; in the midst of that minor World Cup thing. If Beckham makes the England squad, he won't be in North America for that game. He's missed one of the previous three years because of injury, and twice because of scheduling conflicts the MLS knew about months before the schedule came out.
Look, TFC doesn't need Beckham, but FC Dallas and the New England Revolution could use ticket-sales boosts, so make sure Mr. Posh plays when the Galaxy goes to those cities. When there's an international date conflict, one which would see Beckham and fellow MLS star Landon Donovan unavailable, that's a good time to pen in the "at BMO" game; TFC fans will watch anything. Donovan will, like Beckham, likely miss the June 26 date due to that thing in South Africa.
UEFA announced in 2007 that, starting in 2010, the Champions League Final, the world's most-watched annual sports event, would be played on the last Saturday in May.
So, the schedule maker has given TFC a home game -- to New England -- that goes head-to-head with the Champions League Final, where Arsenal will throttle Barcelona, like, 5-0 (a guy can dream, can't he?).
And, don't forget, Toronto has a home opener on a Thursday night, not a beautiful Saturday spring afternoon, against Philadelphia. The date was moved to accommodate ESPN. Unfortunately, Canadian viewers don't get ESPN. To us, it's a miserable Thursday night date. Same goes for the other two Wednesday night games on the schedule.
Last year, the schedule-maker front-loaded the TFC schedule so radically, that the Reds only had four MLS games at BMO Field through August, September and October. So it's not like this year's brutal schedule is an anomaly.
This is a case of MLS taking Toronto for granted -- the league isn't anti-Canadian. An expansion team in Vancouver, plus continuing expansion talk with Montreal show that MLS is a lot more pro-Canadian than the NHL nowadays. But, they have taken sellouts at BMO Field as a given -- and the schedule reflects that.