As if the demand wasn’t low enough to see Nicaragua’s Real Esteli F.C. visit Toronto for the first-leg of the Champions League preliminary round, TFC’s ludicrous approach to showcasing low-profile matches continued as the club crumbled 5-0 at Red Bull Arena last week.
Toronto’s fearless approach to pricing continued following the dismantling in New York, when the club’s website published a post outlining ticket sales for the all-important July 27 match against the Nicaraguan champion. As the organization squeezes supporters through league-leading season-ticket costs, a minor 15% ticket discount for a mid-week Cup match against an unknown club will unfortunately produce thousands of empty seats in a 23,000-seat stadium.
Rather than use the match as a tool to expand the game throughout the city by allowing non-season ticket holders a chance to see a match at a fraction of the cost, TFC’s decision to keep escalating prices raised for unknown opposition is a poor decision that will produce a passive atmosphere.
And while opening up purchasing power to season ticket holders the day after an embarrassing away defeat in New York was already a dicey decision, lofty pricing will likely scare off fringe fans that scoff at the idea of shelling out upwards of $60 for a non-league match.
Fall in line with what other Major League Soccer cities are doing.
Similar to Canada’s Voyageurs Cup, the United States Open Cup is a tournament between Major League Soccer clubs and lower division professional teams in the U.S. As an automatic Champions League berth is handed out to the winner, the tournament is growing among casual fans throughout the country.
But a major difference is that Open Cup games are significantly reduced in price when compared to MLS matches in the same city.
For instance, seats for yesterday’s Open Cup match in Seattle between the Sounders and L.A. Galaxy were sold for half the price of the club’s usual league matches with the most expensive seats listed at $20. Similarly, Sporting Kansas City’s most expensive general admission Open Cup ticket went for just $15 this year.
As U.S. Open Cup games typically attract lower attendance figures in MLS cities, many U.S. teams drop prices in an effort to offer their products to fans that can’t drop $200 on four tickets to see a weekend MLS match.
And with TFC pulling in historically lower numbers for Wednesday night Cup matches, what is stopping the club from lowering prices during certain competitions to hopefully pack in fans that can’t afford pricey MLS games?
Couple the first-leg of the Champions League with the fact that many season ticket holders will be drawn to BMO Field four days earlier when TFC play FC Dallas and an expensive midweek game will be a tough sell.
Demonstrated by the roughly 10,000 fans that showed up to see the Reds take on Panamanian club Arabe Unido after TFC had already been eliminated from competition in 2010, passionate supporters will funnel into the city no matter the circumstance. At the same time, the club must realize they aren’t dealing with the zombie fan base of the Maple Leafs.
As far as TFC is concerned, the organization needs to look at taking advantage of Cup play by lowering the burden on supporters and potential fringe fans to continue expanding a passionate fan base every season.
ON THE ROAD AGAIN
It’s why the number of home dates to start the season were so crucial.
Following Toronto’s match with Real Esteli, the club crosses the continent three times in two weeks.
Following a late start in Portland on July 30, the Reds head to Esteli, Nicaragua, for the second leg of the CONCACAF Champions League preliminary round three days later.
Even more complicated than the seven-hour flight to Latin America is that Esteli’s stadium is a three-hour drive from the country’s airport. And from the looks of the pitch (seen at torontosun.com/esteli), just about everything but soccer is going to be played on Aug. 2 during the return.
The Reds then travel to D.C. United on Aug. 6 for their fourth game in 10 days.
Looking back, early-season home draws to Chivas, Chicago and Columbus might hurt a little worse in a few weeks.
After watching former bench boss Preki throw away the Champions League after traveling with a reserve side to Panama last year, how much attention will TFC’s current regime put on the tournament?
Assuming Aron Winter trots out a strong lineup that fails to secure a big result in the first-leg against Real Esteli, are the Reds prepared to travel with Torsten Frings and Danny Koevermans to a hostile environment for a chance to secure passage into the group stage?
For the sake of player preservation, the Reds hope a multiple-goal win in the opening leg will allow them to rest important players while the rest grind out a result in Nicaragua.
Although it would be easier with a packed house full of 20,000 enthusiastic fans, it goes without saying that a two- or three-goal win on July 27 is a must before another brutal schedule threatens to end TFC’s season for good.