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CSA needs to ensure fans can afford Ecuador friendly

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When Canada’s men’s team last played a friendly at BMO Field, an announced crowd of 10,619 saw the home side lose 2-0 to Peru. But that crowd number, to the observer in the press box, came off as generous. Thhe stadium looked well more than half empty. The north stand was bare, as was the upper deck on the west side of BMO Field. And, a lot of the supporters there came to cheer on the Peruvians, with some busing in from New York state. Take those traveling supporters out of the equation, and the number of local fans who bothered to come and see Canada play is revealed to be far smaller than the official count. So, how does the Canadian Soccer Association ensure that the national team receives better support for its June 1 friendly against Ecuador? Tickets are expected to go on sale in a couple of weeks, and no price points have been announced. Canada opens its Gold Cup schedule down the 401 in Detroit on June 7. So a warmup match in Toronto makes sense. Last time, seats, with service charges, ran from $34.75 to $108.75. That’s right, more than $100 for a friendly to see Canada play a game against Peru, a nation that’s not exactly a South American power. Sure, Jefferson Farfan is a wonderful player, a star in the Bundesliga, but not exactly the kind of household name in North America who you could build a marketing effort around. If the prices stay at the same level for Ecuador, it’s realistic to expect about the same number of bums in the seats at BMO. Remember, that on June 7, Canada will play the U.S. — a far sexier match-up than Canada-Ecuador — in Detroit. Tickets for that, with service charges, will run from US$29.80 to US$111.60. Canada can’t be in a position where one game competes with the other for fan dollars. Ecuador will be preparing for Copa America, which begins July 1 in Argentina. It is in a group with Brazil, Paraguay and Venezuela. Under the agreement between the City of Toronto and Maple Leaf Sports and Entertainment, which manages the facility, the Canadian Soccer Association has rights to use BMO Field for six dates every year. But those dates are not rent-free. The CSA does not simply get the key to the building. MLSE spokesperson Rajani Kamath confirmed that the rent comes in a form of revenue sharing from the gate. Under the agreement that was reached between the City of Toronto, MLSE and the provincial and federal levels of government to build BMO Field, $27.2 million of the $62.8 million needed to build the facility came from the feds.

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