No matter how bad Toronto FC has done this season, it is still a “model franchise” for the Major League Soccer.
Despite the poor performance and total breakdown the Reds suffered through this year, MLS commissioner Don Garber recognizes the organization’s value to the league.
“MLS is where it is today because of the success of Toronto FC,” Garber said at a media roundtable session with Maple Leaf Sports and Entertainment executive Tom Anselmi.
“I have absolutely no doubt that we would not be in the position we are, which is a respected and credible, growing professional sports league without the success of TFC.
“This team is still to me, and I hope it will remain a model franchise.”
The frustration the fans showed last week during the 2-2 draw with Columbus – where they remained silent and wore green shirts as a way of protest for the ticket price hikes – actually impressed Garber.
The MLS boss commended the supporters’ ability to communicate their feelings with passion and in a very creative way.
“Unique signs, sitting on their hands, that got everybody’s attention. That got my attention. It certainly got the club’s and ownership’s attention, and they’re sitting down and talking to them.
“I fully understand and sympathize with fans who are frustrated with lack of success and I know the club cares about that,” Garber said.
Rabid followers might disagree but the enthusiasm and support they have shown for four years is precisely what’s captured Garber’s attention.
“Everything from how they travel down to away games, to how they cheer, to their passion for their club, to their commitment to the club.
“It’s unfortunate that they haven’t been rewarded with a very competitive team. TFC has helped teach Americans how to be soccer fans.”
Garber was also impressed with the way Anselmi and other MLSE officials have met with groups to listen to their demands.
“I’ve been around sports for 30 years. Not many ownership groups go out and meet with fans when they’re concerned about something.”
He also used the franchise as an illustration for the future U.S. World Cup bid in 2022.
“We’re going to sit and talk about why America is a soccer nation. And we’re showing pictures of BMO Field. We’re showing pictures of the Red Patch Boys.”
Fear of boycott during the MLS Cup
In addition, the problems surrounding Toronto FC – which include a letter from MLSE apologizing for the bad results and the increase in the ticket prices – has the management team concerned over the possibility that Reds fans would not attend the MLS Cup on Nov. 21 at BMO Field.
But the commissioner is hopeful the Canadian fans will show their commitment to the league.
“I am hoping, and in many ways imploring, that we can continue to count on them to help take this league to a higher level,” Garber said.