Tidbits from Major League Soccer Soccer's news feed. I'm the last guy to advocate rabble-rousing class warfare, but the Fire might consider a "Fly Coach, Win Cups" motto for tomorrow's Cup final. Although I've never flown across the country in the middle seat and tried to play soccer immediately afterwards. It would indeed be amusing if Seattle took time out to praise their comfortable transportation while winning the nothing, but unfortunately the Galaxy, their primary competition for two out of the three domestic trophies, don't exactly ask their Designated Players to cram in the back of a Datsun pickup. There's no reason that every owner couldn't do this for their team, either - it's not like the Fire are owned by the Pacific Garden Rescue Mission, either. Maybe the teams who do have to travel to road games like hobos on railways should cheer for the Sounders, so they too can live large.
However, speaking of travel, this annoyed me more than it should have:
MLS Cup has been hosted by a neutral venue since the league’s inception in 1996 – this year at The Home Depot Center on November 20 -- but Garber says there is “lots of talk” to have a higher seed play host to a championship game. He addressed media gathered for a pre-game event at the Vancouver Whitecaps’ first match in newly renovated BC Place in downtown Vancouver.
“I, for one, am a supporter of it,” Garber said. “We’ve gotten to the point in our league where our fans on short notice would support their club and attend a championship game even if they had only two or three days to buy tickets for that match. Years ago we wouldn’t have been able to contemplate that when we weren’t convinced the support was there to sell out a stadium for a championship game. Now I have no doubt we could. I think it’d be fun for the fans. I’m a big proponent of it.”
There is a downside to travelling via pampered flying pleasure palace - you lose touch with the common man. These are not the words of someone who has tried to book a flight, a hotel, and transportation on three days f***ing notice anytime recently. It's pretty awesome for fans of the higher seeded team, but it would be a real thumb in the eye to fans of the "visiting" team.
There's also the Canada issue - not even Don Garber's Cuban cigar connection can whip up a passport in two or three days. Although I realize it will be several decades before a Canadian team will be in MLS Cup.
It used to be this was not an academic question - ten years ago, the league really did schedule conference finals on Wednesday for a final that following Sunday. Fortunately, the league seems to have come to its senses. This year's schedule has the conference finals set for November 5 and/or 6, with the final on November 20. (The playoffs are on a midweek-weekend-midweek-weekend pace, though, so if you're planning on following the Timbers around from the wildcard game through MLS Cup, well, lotsa luck with that.)
So unless the Commissioner is also advocating a return to the incredibly quick turnaround, this nightmare scenario won't arise. But why bring it up at all? This is how you get called a caretaker and have trainwreck threads in BigSoccer named after you, Mr. Commissioner. Yeah, so it's a better idea than how baseball picks a World Series home field advantage - if all it took to be successful was to be smarter than Bud Selig, we'd all be trillionaires.
My gut reaction is to oppose the change...but I wonder if there's anything to that, apart from sentimentality. I like the idea of a big, single-game final, and I like the idea of a championship decided on neutral territory.
But it isn't as if the idea is to have the finalists put in a financially-based bid to host, like certain tournaments I could name. So one of the finalists will have a big, big advantage over the other. Shoulda won more games, visiting finalist - then the other team would have had to find flights and rooms. And if hosting comes down to goal differential, like the Supporters Shield did in 2000 - well, that makes it even better. Shoulda scored more goals, visiting finalist.
I also thought that the Big Event should be reserved to those capable of hosting it. But nearly everyone controls their own parks these days, and everyone who's anyone has an SSS or can at least scrub the NFL lines off for the afternoon.
Besides, a moment's thought should have reminded me that last minute venue changes in the playoffs happen every single year, because MLS #1 seeds tend to die hideous deaths. All Garber is doing is extrapolating this one round later.
So only one set of fans will have to make arrangements...but they'll now be faced with scarcity of tickets. I'm fully aware that's not an argument from the MLS point of view - it barely comes up to the level of a whine.
But the Cascadia teams are apparently still arguing about how many and what kind of scum, dirt, and/or douchebags from the other sides to let in to their regular season home games. And I'm fine with Seattle selling 35,000 tickets to Seattle fans and letting their rivals eat cake...in regular season games. MLS Cups - they should make sure the other team gets to bring its fans. It's their championship game, too.
We don't have to keep using Seattle as a punching bag, because it's looking somewhat likely we'll live out this scenario in about seven weeks. (I apologize to Salt Lake and Sounders fans, but can we at least admit for the sake of argument that the Galaxy are favorites to come out of the West? Good.) The Galaxy won't have anything to justify hogging the tickets, either, except coincidence - they didn't earn the right to host, they bid for it.
Now...who's the favorite to come out of the East right now...checking the brackets....okay, Dallas. FC Dallas fans in this scenario have to deal with all the summer soldiers and sunshine patriots that are going to squeal for Beckham in MLS Cup. At least in Toronto, there was no hassle getting a game ticket.
I assume and hope this sort of thing is set in stone in the bid process, but since the whole point of the proposed new system is to sell the game out, I'd like to make sure that fans aren't bulldozed in the process. If I'm taking a "two or three days" comment and overreacting to it like he had said "simulated promotion and relegation," that's why.
Look, I'm not looking forward to thousands of Philadelphia fans camped in my yard, either, but that's the price of having a good team to cheer for. Noblesse oblige, after all.
EDIT - I forgot to say I would miss the cheesy MLS Cup logos that featured whichever local landmark, but as you can see, those are already gone. I didn't realize the significance of that move - the Super Bowl logos are now all standardized, too - but I think the Super Bowl of Soccer as we know it is coming to an end.