Despite a terrible 2011 of MLS league play, Toronto FC have reached without question their biggest milestone in their short history. TFC has reached the quarterfinal stage of the CONCACAF Champions League. In this two leg knockout round they drew the current MLS champions, the Los Angeles Galaxy.
This great milestone has been met with a very difficult decision that has divided the TFC conglomerate. This debate revolves around the issue of weather in the great Canadian north. Average March temperature for Toronto hovers around -5-3 degrees Celsius or 23-37 Fahrenheit.
With cold temperatures a reality and snow a distinct possibility, TFC management have been debating moving this all important game out of the comfort of TFC's fortress, BMO Field, and into the 'concrete Cadillac,' the Rogers Centre.
This article will examine the pros/cons of each possibility as deadline day looms for the Toronto faithful.
The Rogers Centre is a multipurpose facility that is currently the home of both the Toronto Blue Jays and Toronto Argonauts.
It has been used several times as a soccer facility, including notable matches between Celtic and Roma in 2004—which drew 50,158—Serbia-Montenegro and Italy in 2008 and Manchester United and Celtic in 2010.
This facility offers some positives as well as negatives.
The most notable setback is the artificial turf. A game of this magnitude demands a natural playing surface. Laying down grass for this game is an option; however, this is still not the ideal playing surface.
The increased potential for capacity, however, is what intriguing about this venue. With proper marketing and fair ticket pricing I firmly believe that the building formerly known as the SkyDome could potentially hold 40-50,000 screaming fans in red.
This game will definitely be a star-studded occasion with big names filling out both rosters. The likes of Robbie Keane, Landon Donovan, Torsten Frings, Danny Koevermans and (barring his departure back to Europe) David Beckham should be able to sell tickets to even those still unaware of professional soccer being played in their hometown.
Hopefully if Toronto FC go this route and sell enough tickets to make this a great atmosphere. Nothing would be more embarrassing than playing to under 20,000 people in a 50,000+ capacity stadium (ask the Blue Jays).
*Note: with the recent sale of Maple Leafs Sports and Entertainment to Bell and Rogers, this option is certainly a lot easier now, as Rogers owns this building
BMO Field is the natural home of the Reds and the only choice for most supporters as the location for the game. The most obvious problem with BMO is that the weather may be an issue.
Although many die-hard fans are willing to suffer a bit of frostbite to cheer on their team, the average fan almost undoubtedly will not.
Fans in Toronto can easily be classified by a few words, passionate being one and fair-weather another.
With rain comes empty seats, and snow or low temperatures will certainly cause the same effect. Also, BMO currently does not have proper drainage in place to hold snow—meaning this pitch, too, won't be the greatest.
Although BMO Field would definitely be more manageable to fill, any inclement weather may completely destroy the importance of the 12th man in this match.
In my humble opinion, I believe that given the new partnership with Rogers, the quality of the opposition, time of year and the chance for new exposure, this game should be held indoors at the Rogers Centre.
If tickets are priced appropriately TFC should have a very loud and large crowd cheering them on come March.