TORONTO - The Major League Soccer (MLS)
season is set to end on Sunday not with a bang but a yawn as FC
Dallas takes on the Colorado Rapids for the MLS Cup.
A dream final between the Los Angeles Galaxy and New York
Red Bulls that would have featured two of world football's most
glamorous names in David Beckham and Thierry Henry failed to
materialise, denying fans and league officials the showcase they
had hoped for.
Instead, the MLS championship will feature Dallas and
Colorado, two modest teams without a single designated player,
in a match that is likely to attract few casual fans on a busy
sporting Sunday packed with attractive viewing options.
"Who would have thought at the beginning of the year that FC
Dallas and Colorado Rapids would be in the championship game?"
wondered Dallas coach Schellas Hyndman to reporters.
While Dallas and Colorado are capable of producing
attractive, entertaining soccer, the final is sure to be dwarfed
in the television ratings by a Sunday-night NFL showdown between
the New York Giants and Philadelphia Eagles that will kick off
at the same time.
The hugely popular NASCAR series will crown its series
driving champion on Sunday while the Canadian Football League
will play two semi-finals to decide the teams for the Grey Cup.
In a city consumed by ice hockey and the Toronto Maple
Leafs, the MLS Cup has created only a modest buzz with little
outward evidence that the championship game is even being staged
in Canada for the first time.
Banners at the entrance to the grounds tout the "Everything
You Want to Know About Sex Show" occupying the convention centre
next to BMO Field, and not the game.
"It's a very competitive sports market and we are the newest
kid on the block so without doubt we have to fight hard and be
creative and make good decisions and invest properly to break
through the clutter," MLS commissioner Don Garber told Reuters.
"But we're doing a pretty good job, the league is much
further along than we thought it would be and we just need to
stay focused and keep the league growing."
Even in Denver, the Rapids have scrapped for attention in a
crowded sports market averaging just 13,328 fans a game this
The situation was much the same for FC Dallas, which only
twice this season managed to pull in more than 15,000 fans,
topping out at 15,933.
With near-freezing temperatures and rain forecast, there are
mounting concerns that the final could be played out in front of
hundreds of empty seats.
While Toronto FC is considered the model MLS franchise held
up as the prototype operation for expansion teams, club
supporters have bristled at what they see as steep ticket prices
for the final which many were forced to purchase as part of
their season-ticket packages.
Tickets to Sunday's final range from $65 to $200 - more
than double the top price of $85 for last year's final in
Seattle that pulled in 46,011.
"I expect a sellout and hopefully all those people who
bought those tickets as part of season-ticket packages come out
to support the league," said Garber.
"It's two teams from other parts of North America but this
is a great soccer market, passionate fans. The city has been
incredibly supportive of our league and I hope to see a great
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