Toronto FC's CONCACAF Champions League run has come to and end. TFC has one meaningless game to go at home to play out the competition, which will surely be played in front of even fewer fans than the sparse crowd showing up Tuesday.
No more needs to be said; an announced crowd of 10,581 makes it abundantly clear the shine has completely worn off Toronto's Little-Big team.
The CONCACAF Champions League (CCL) was supposed to be the club's one remaining shining light: a reason to remain optimistic through all the dark days of drama and dysfunction. Now, the lights have been turned off in familiar fashion; some nice moments in the competition mixed into the usual concoction of not being good enough.
A win over Cruz Azul in the Group Stage opener, and a tie in Mexico City were nice stories. But TFC has been chalk full of nice stories while falling short of anything that can be considered a substantial accomplishment since day one.
For a franchise that wants to be a big boy, TFC is more the Little Club that Couldn't.
And don't think Major League Soccer's Head Office isn't taking notice.
MLS staffers attended Tuesday's match, as they were in town conducting a sight-check in the lead-up to the MLS Cup Final in November.
A couple questions must have crossed league officials' mind at the match, excluding how terrible the sightlines in the Press Box are. 1) Where have all the people, the best supporters in MLS gone, and 2) How do we convince Season's ticket holders to show up for the MLS Cup?
The second question answers itself if somehow Beckham and the Galaxy can end up facing Henry and the Red Bulls in the final. It's a realistic possibility, and best-case scenario for the league. The headline sells itself.
But if not, the sole purpose for having the title game in Toronto, the over-the-top fan support, will go to waste. Staging the game North of the Border in November wasn't decided because of the weather. The promise of a guaranteed sellout was the worthwhile venture, not investing in scarves and mittens.
And only having to sell three or four thousand tickets for public consumption with the rest going to seasons' ticket holders made Toronto that much more an ideal host.
How many of seasons' ticket holders will actual show up for the game is a massive concern for MLS. The optics of possible empty seats for MLS marquee game is ugly.
Rest assured, someone will have serious explaining to do if MLSE/MLS cannot convince season ticket holders to show up.
Back to the first question, explaining why so few attended the CCL match, a competition TFC was very much alive in, is more difficult.
Don't use weather as an excuse. The product is the problem. And it's understandable why the masses have tuned the team out.
There's no debating the hardcore soccer fans of Toronto have decided to stay away. And it should be noted, there's a massive difference between the hardcore soccer fan and the hardcore TFC supporter in this city.
The Toronto soccer fan, reeled in initially by the TFC buzz, is far too intelligent to be fooled by an inferior product. The intelligent fan, and there are plenty of them, fully understand they've been sold a concept, rather than an acceptable product.
The MLS product isn't the problem. Toronto's team is.
And it's a shame. The team could have been so much more. TFC had so much potential but has gone to waste. TFC, and thus MLSE, could have been the de facto leaders of soccer in this country. Canada has been begging for a professionally run domestic brand.
If MLSE had the foresight to put proper soccer infrastructure in place, instead of getting all geeked up how they could make songs and sell the damn thing, they could have cultivated a true soccer culture, not a forced one. If done properly, the 10,000 on hand Tuesday could have been more like 20,000.
MLSE has only themselves to blame. And legitimate, credible soccer in this country still awaits a proper home. We had a glimpse of it in Toronto. It's been spoiled.
Now it will be up to MLS to help MLSE save face. MLS will hold MLSE's hand through finding a new Director of Soccer, Head Coach, or however it is they should run their soccer operation. It's sad really. But without other viable alternatives and proper soccer minds to lead the team forward, it's the only choice.