The Canadian Championship hasn't captured the imagination of fans so far, with Edmonton and Montreal drawing lower-than-expected crowds. Will the same happen in Vancouver?
VANCOUVER – When the Vancouver Whitecaps host FC Edmonton in the second leg of their Amway Canadian Championship semi-final at BC Place on Wednesday, will anyone care?
Oh sure, the diehards will, but for one reason or another, Canada’s top domestic soccer tournament hasn’t captured the imagination of fans in the way that Major League Soccer has.
The Whitecaps, along with FC Edmonton, found this out in a very big way in their first-leg encounter last week, when a paltry 2,777 showed up to watch the match – a number that looked even more blush-worthy as the game was played in the 60,000-plus capacity Commonwealth Stadium.
But the phenomenon isn’t just restricted to Edmonton – on the other side of the country, the Montreal Impact hosted their supposed rivals Toronto FC and only managed to get 13,405 butts in seats, which was their lowest attendance of the season, and a far cry from the 19,000-plus that have generally turned up for MLS matches in recent weeks.
With the Impact having sold over 50,000 tickets for this weekend’s match against the LA Galaxy, it only serves to drive the point home further – the fans just don’t seem to care about the Canadian Championship.
So the big question this week in Vancouver is – will a similar half-empty stadium situation happen in this city as well?
“I don’t really know why the attendances are low,” captain Jay DeMerit told Goal.com after a training session at BC Place on Monday. “But hopefully that doesn’t happen here. I think everybody enjoys the Whitecaps games and any time we can go – this is the final of our leg – so, it’s an important game and we’re going to need all the help we can get from a fan perspective to come and help cheer us on, because we know that in order to get to the final you have to win the semifinal.
“Wednesday’s a very important game for us.”
There’s reason to think the problem won’t fully replicate itself on the West Coast, even if there is a slight dip in the normally impressive BC Place attendance numbers on Wednesday.
The Whitecaps are in a rich vein of form, with four wins in a row in all competitions. The club, in its wisdom, has opted to link up with deal site Groupon to promote the match, and to be fair it’s the sort of deal that’s difficult to say no to: $65 for a pair of tickets and a copy of the video game FIFA 12.
And, Eric Hassli’s stoppage-time game winner on Saturday, which helped the big Frenchman hurdle his 17-game MLS goalless streak, surely can’t hurt in terms of piquing the interest of the casual fan.
But, will strong recent form, a decent deal and a good storyline be enough for the fans to flock to BC Place on Wednesday?
“We’ll see,” head coach Martin Rennie said. “In a midweek game you sometimes get less fans but the Whitecaps fans have been pretty good all the home games we’ve had so far, so I’m hopeful they’ll be out here for this one as well.
“Of course they recognize how important a game this it is – it’s a semifinal and it gives us a chance to get to a final for the first time since I’ve been here.”