A Big News/Big Problem Sort of Day
Well it’s going to be a real big day down at BMO Field! And there are lots of things going on that are exciting for Soccer in Toronto. For those of you who don’t know:
• Don Garber will announce today that BMO Field will be hosting the MLS Cup Final game this season, fulfilling a promise made to TFC a number of years ago.
• The grass surface installation is scheduled to be completed today and with 20+ degree weather on the horizon for the weekend the new turf surface will probably be quite lush between now and the home opener on April 15th.
• And reports coming out of England this week state that Manchester United could be very well appearing in Toronto this summer to play a friendly against Toronto FC as part of a North American tour that will see them take part in the annual MLS All Star Game. (EDIT (10:07 AM): Paul Bierne is reporting that Man U are not playing TFC due to scheduling conflicts… I guess we will have a different large club playing for the Carling Cup this season.
These developments comes on top of the Under 20 World Cup, Aston Villa, Pachuca, Independiente, Benfica, West Ham, Real Madrid, World Cup Qualifiers and the MLS All Star Game as significant events that have taken place on the BMO Field calendar. Heady days indeed to be a footy fan in Toronto.
These two most recent developments (MLS Cup and the possibility of Man U coming) to me speak to the maturity of the Soccer market in Toronto but also point to a larger issue ahead.
Problems on the horizon??
The Toronto soccer fan is a sophisticated soccer consumer that knows the sport well and knows what a good team is supposed to look like. We have three channels on cable dedicated to nothing but footy 24/7 in this town and just about every European game of any significance can be caught from the comfort of your own living room in Toronto. I know of fans going to South Africa this season to see the World Cup. A good friend of mine just came back from seeing Liverpool and Arsenal play in their home stadiums. And these guys are also TFC season ticket holders. They are the TFC consumer base.
We know what good soccer is supposed to look like in Toronto and the unfortunate reality is that entering our fourth season it would be hard to call Toronto FC a good entertaining soccer team, not just by European standards, but most importantly by MLS standards.
The shine is off the rose. The new car smell has worn off TFC and even though we may see some wonderful special events in this city in this and future seasons, the market will never truly become as “footy mad” as it can be unless Toronto FC becomes more of a finished product.
If this team does not make the playoffs this season and do well in the Voyageur’s Cup/CONCACAF competition there are going to be significantly more upset TFC fans than there are right now. And there are a lot of them out there already!