Just a few short weeks ago, Major League Soccer commissioner Don Garber announced that the league's championship match, MLS Cup, will remain at a neutral site for the 2010 season.
That news comes after league officials volleyed with the idea of moving the game from the neutral site to the home stadium of the higher seeded team playing in the championship match.
"Following a detailed review and careful analysis of both options, we have elected to continue with a neutral-site format for MLS Cup 2010," Garber said. "We believe this format will provide an exciting environment for our fans while also allowing the necessary planning time for our key constituents. We will continue to assess the possibility of playing MLS Cup at the home stadium of the higher seeded team in the future."
Major League Soccer is currently evaluating candidate cities and host venues for MLS Cup 2010 and will announce the eventual host site during the first quarter of the year.
The Home Depot Center in Carson, California has always been an easy option because of its size. With a seating capacity of 27,000, it is the largest soccer-specific stadium in MLS. The Home Depot Center has actually already hosted three MLS Cup Games.
Well, say hello to my little friend, Red Bull Arena. Rebuilt in the classic style of many of the football stadiums worldwide, Red Bull Arena in Harrison, New Jersey will not only seat 25,000-plus, but thanks to its state-of-the-art translucent polycarbonate and aluminum roof structure, every seat in the stadium is covered from inclement weather as well.
Now granted, there are bigger, non-soccer-specific stadiums that could host the MLS Cup; RFK Stadium in D.C. and Gillette Stadium in Foxborough, Massachusetts, accommodated over 57,000 and 61,000 respectively when they hosted the Cup.
Even last year’s title was decided at Seattle’s Qwest Field when over 47,000 showed up to watch Real Salt Lake beat the L.A. Galaxy.
Hey, don’t get me wrong—I’m all for trying to get as large an attendance as possible for the championship game, but those big oversized American football stadiums don’t quite get you as close to the action. At Red Bull Arena, the seats have been moved closer to the pitch—21 feet from touchline to the first row. Now that’s what I call getting in the game.
Listen, if you’ve been following my Bleacher Reports, then you know I am also a Philadelphia Union season ticket holder, and while I am very excited about sitting in my seats with my two sons to watch the Union this season, I fear the league will look at Chester’s 18,500-seat capacity and not even think twice about having an MLS Cup game there.
I hope I’m wrong, but if I’m not, that short drive up to Harrison, New Jersey to watch the Union play in the MLS Cup would be just fine by me.
By the way, Red Bull New York has already inked a three-year agreement with the Big East Conference to host its annual men’s soccer championship semifinal and final at Red Bull Arena.