Good morning all. As I attempt to make my recovery from my trip to Salzburg I wanted to discuss a topic that has gained some attention recently. The plight of the MLS traveling fan.
As some of you may have seen, Toronto FC has turned down an initial request by the Chicago Fire supporter’s group Section 8 for 500 tickets to the Fire-Toronto FC match at BMO Field in October. Tom Dunmore at Pitch Invasion does a good job of laying out the situation, which is probably why I had multiple readers email the piece.
The timing couldn’t have been better for me, having just attended the Red Bull Salzburg-Wacker Innsbruck match in Austria. The scene there was amazing even though it was a rescheduled match from the weekend being played at midweek on the same night as Champions League and in what had to be 20 degree weather. Despite all that, Salzburg’s fans were in full voice and the Innsbruck supporter’s section was visible and vocal as well.
On that night I couldn’t help but think of what it will be like when the day comes that MLS fans really start traveling to more games in bunches. Obviously the size of the country prevents this from taking place in all instances, but it can happen, and is happening, more and more as the league expands. Whether it’s a group of Houston supporters visiting Giants Stadium (and subsequently showering Jozy Altidore with beer after he scored the game-winner against them) or a caravan of buses like the one the Red Bulls provided for its fans to D.C. in 2006, there needs to be more traveling support and MLS needs to cultivate that breed of fan.
Seeing the Chicago-Toronto situation made me think that there may be some clubs whose leadership doesn’t grasp the importance of traveling support. In the case of Toronto, how many of the suits above Mo Johnston really have soccer backgrounds? That said, I can’t help but think that Mo Johnston knows a thing or two about rivalries and what they can mean.
The whole thing screamed to be written about so I have written a column for ESPN.com on the subject that should post later today. I do think it is an issue that MLS needs to focus on.
What do you think of traveling MLS fans and the road game experience? Have you traveled to an MLS match as an away supporter? What was your experience like? Do you think catering to traveling supporters should be a priority or do you think it’s still something that is several years away from being an issue?
Share your thoughts on the subject, and experiences as a traveling fan, below.