Join Now  | 
Home About Contact Us Privacy & Security Advertise
Soccer America Daily Soccer World Daily Special Edition Around The Net Soccer Business Insider College Soccer Reporter Youth Soccer Reporter Soccer on TV Soccer America Classifieds Game Report
Paul Gardner: SoccerTalk Soccer America Confidential Youth Soccer Insider World Cup Watch
RSS Feeds Archives Manage Subscriptions Subscribe
Order Current Issue Subscribe Manage My Subscription Renew My Subscription Gift Subscription
My Account Join Now
Tournament Calendar Camps & Academies Soccer Glossary Classifieds
Philly home opener a tricky call
by Ridge Mahoney, September 21st, 2009 2PM
Subscribe to Soccer America Confidential

MOST READ

MOST COMMENTED

Put Toronto on the list of MLS teams that might be hedging on when it can open the 2010 MLS season at home. Philly, take note.

Plans to install a grass playing surface at BMO Field, at a cost of more than $6 million, are moving forward, with approval by the Toronto City Council and other governmental entities next on the agenda. The city council will meet to discuss the proposal next Wednesday, and MLS officials have been discussing the project with representatives from Maple Leaf Sports & Entertainment regarding a time line for completion.

The field will have the underground heating and irrigation technology necessary to stage matches in all but the harshest conditions, and in Toronto, the weather in late April can be just as treacherous as that in late March, when the 2010 season is scheduled to being, so league officials only need assurance work will be completed in time for a home opener, whenever it is.

Scenarios have been discussed by which Philadelphia, whose new stadium in Chester, Pa., won't be ready in time for a late March opener, either kicks off its debut season with a modest string of road games, or at another venue, with Lincoln Financial Field, home of the NFL Eagles and a Concacaf Gold Cup site in July, as a likely alternative.

The Union is already being batted about as the opponent for a March 25 opener at Qwest Field in Seattle, and so could play another game or two on the road and open at home in its own facility in Chester if completion by early April is feasible. MLS president Mark Abbott says the league has been aware for some time about the stadium delay, which is one of several issues that need to be resolved before the list of home openers for each team can be released. The full schedule isn't expected to be finalized until early next year.

Columbus opened the season with seven road games in 1999 prior to the first match played at Columbus Crew Stadium, and the Galaxy went through eight away matches before it unveiled Home Depot Center as its new home in 2003. Philly wouldn't need such a long lag time, but team and league officials are pondering the pros and cons of opening at home in another facility, or waiting until April. If more than one home game would need to be moved, that adds further complications.

This is a tricky call. Do you want to assume pent-up demand and the novelty factor will swell crowds for an opener at "the Linc" enough put a lot of bodies into a 69,000-seat stadium, or is the risk of a big facility only one-third full too great? The team has passed the 10,000 mark in season-ticket sales; so far, no statement has been issued by the team's main fan club, The Sons of Ben, of what its idea might be. The Sons of Ben have pledged a commitment to 2,000 season tickets, and will have their own section (cool!) and entrance (very cool!) to the stadium in Chester.

The Philly situation affects another expansion team, the WPS Independence, which is looking for alternatives as well, with Villanova University among the possibilities. The WPS season opens later than does MLS and the women's league is adding two teams to increase its membership to nine; with an odd number of teams, as was the case for MLS this year, scheduling is complicated by a bye team sitting out each "round" of play.

Getting back to an even number of teams - 16 - and opening a new stadium in New Jersey for the Red Bulls as well as the Union's facility in Chester pushes the MLS closer to controlling more of its costs as well as playing dates. One reason the league decided to suspend play during the World Cup is the financial hits the league takes playing in Giants Stadium, which costs approximately $250,000 per game to rent, will be eliminated.

Those new facilities will also have grass playing surfaces, as does The Linc, which makes opening the season in that facility somewhat more attractive.

Yet a team looking for a big splash, and not a half-full mega-stadium, in its market on its debut has only that one chance to make a first impression. It took a few games for TFC to score its first goal, but its rabid fans and capacity attendances quickly took on iconic stature around the league. The next expansion team, which has yet to sign a player, much less play a game, already has some tough decisions to make.

 



No comments yet.

Sign in to leave a comment. Don't have an account? Join Now




AUTHORS

ARCHIVES
FOLLOW SOCCERAMERICA

Recent Soccer America Confidential
New NASL owner expects to see difference in how league operates    
The interlocking and overlapping elements of North American pro soccer are among the issues facing owners ...
So far, Jordan Morris' decisions have been the right ones    
U.S. forward Jordan Morris turned down a move to German club Werder Bremen, which is rooted ...
MLS Playoff Watch: Breaking down the Eastern Conference's battle of bubble teams    
With a month of the regular season to be played, no Eastern Conference team has clinched ...
Strenghtened Sounders set aside distractions to focus on postseason quest    
The midseason arrival of Nicolas Lodeiro and the return to fitness of Roman Torres has bolstered ...
Talk of treble not heard at FCD    
Tuesday night the U.S. Open Cup final sold out, and most of the 16,612 in attendance ...
Rested Revs will be tested by defining run of games    
A formation changed and renewed commitment to defense has tightened up a porous Revs' back line, ...
Pulisic helps USA play low and win high    
I had high expectations of Christian Pulisic. He delivered -- and then some.
Christian Pulisic must start on Tuesday    
Coaches like to be secretive about their starting lineups, which is the only way to explain ...
More than a Hexagonal berth is on the line for USA in Caribbean tests    
Does U.S. head coach Jurgen Klinsmann take dramatic steps to revamp his team In qualifiers this ...
Doyle departure starts crucial new era in San Jose    
With only two playoff appearances since it rejoined MLS in 2008, San Jose hasn't been able ...
>> Soccer America Confidential Archives