TFC To Play Big Friendly?
A steely eyed TFC supporter found the following story today on the ESPN website.
This site releases information for the press to promote ESPN’s events and programming. And it looks like they beat TFC to the punch in announcing (if this is actually true) what will be undoubtedly be a big friendly in July between Toronto FC and one of four huge European clubs.
The friendly tournament, called the World Football Challenge sees Manchester United, Barcelona, Juventus and Manchester City travel to North America to play two Mexican sides (Chivas and Club America) and four MLS teams, Toronto FC, Vancouver Whitecaps, Chivas USA and the Chicago Fire. The Vancouver v Man City game has already been announced previously and Manchester United of course is the opponent for the second year running for the MLS All Stars. There has been no formal announcement from Toronto FC as of yet about their entry into this tournament, who they will play and of course if the game (if actually happening) will or will not be taking place at BMO Field.
Looking at the TFC league schedule there is a bit of a gap between July 9th’s match away to Houston and their home tilt versus Dallas on July 20th. The Gold Cup will be long over. And if they make it into the CONCACAF Champions League this season the two legged qualification series for TFC does not start until somewhere between July 26th and July 28th. So there is definitely a window of opportunity here for this to take place.
In this space previously I have commented at length about how as an ardent supporter I am not a huge fan of these games for competitive reasons. Without a doubt 99.9% of the TFC supporters you will talk to will say that the league, the Voyageurs Cup and the Champions League are far more important than a mere spectacle. On the flip side I get that the club needs to still evangelize to the uncommitted and bringing in a team like one of these four European powerhouses is part of the strategy that MLS feels it needs to follow. Seeing Bolton, Independiente, Porto and Benfica play here in recent years were absolute thrills for me as a fan of the sport.
I will believe this information with absolute certainty only when I get confirmation from the club. And I have reached out to them for a comment on this story, but as of yet I have not gotten an official response. The other interesting aspect to this story is how this will be spun to the supporters if and when it is announced.
During the well documented series of Town Hall meetings the club held with supporters and supporters groups last fall the club stated that to control the costs of season ticket packages going forward there were not going to be any CONCACAF Champions League matches or friendly matches included in the season ticket packages. And that is exactly what happened. If TFC wins the two legged upcoming series with Vancouver and retains the Voyageurs Cup there is at least one more home game to try and sell and on top of that will potentially be this likely expensive friendly. If you remember the Real Madrid game of 2009 was hugely expensive with most seats well over $100+.
And this potentially coming on the heels of weaker than ever ticket demand plus the upcoming release of second half MLS single game tickets is going to make the job of the TFC Front Office that much more difficult. And the well documented struggles on the field, at least so far in the league, plus what might be considered as “friendly fatigue” might make the process even harder.
Stay tuned. Much more to follow I guess on this story.
UPDATE – Wednesday May 18th
This story has ben removed from the ESPN website. When I checked the story again Wednesday morning the post referencing the World Football Challenge was completely missing. Whether this was due to a complete error or due to them accidentally letting the cat out of the bag we will have to wait and see.
I have reached out to the club for an official comment and have yet to hear anything specific from them either way.
The English version is missing but the Spanish version referencing TFC’s participation is still online. Here is the link: