Home Global Game CONCACAF Tabla and Hutch and Davies and David. And, maybe, a lot of empty seats

Tabla and Hutch and Davies and David. And, maybe, a lot of empty seats


There are two weeks to go until Canada plays its first-ever Nations League home game. Dominica will provide the opposition in Toronto, and will be expected to be nothing more than cannon fodder,

On Tuesday, Canada Soccer announced the national team’s roster via press release — and it’s a strong, strong team. Veteran and all-time Canadian great Atiba Hutchinson returns! Soon-to-be-Bayern Alphonso Davies! Jonathan David and Cyle Larin, both impressing in Europe, up front! And Ballou Tabla, from Barcelona no less, joining the squad!

So many exclamation points.

Yet, go to Ticketmaster’s website, search out the Oct. 16 match, click on the link for BMO Field’s seat map, and you find enough blue dots — which represent unsold seats — to make up an ocean. At this point, it looks like it would take a fantastic surge just to get the lower bowl half full.

“It’s up to us to take care of business on the field and do what they [fans] want,” Herdman said in a conference call Tuesday. He said it’s up to the players to create the energy and score goals.

“It’s Tuesday night, it’s going to be cold, and what we’re explaining to the fans is come on and let’s get out tonight, let’s make that little bit of an effort and turn your TV off, bring your son along and start this journey in earnest.”

There have been ticket specials for this game, as well. And, right now,  a seat in section 115 will set you back just $24, including fees. You can sit at midfield, just a few rows from the sidelines, for $55.50.

When it comes to the modern sports marketplace, these are not expensive tickets. And, if you go to StubHub, the resale ticket marketplace, you’ll find tickets in section 114 for less than $18 US each.

Despite fairly decent ticket prices and Canada’s most star-studded lineup in a generation, this game is falling flat when it comes to fan interest.

I’d argue that the format of Nations League qualifying, which sees the team at the top of the qualifying group win places into the “A” pool with the likes of Mexico and the United States, is a deeply flawed system. Basically, the top teams will all finish 4-0-0, so it comes down to goal difference. So, Canada needs to bludgeon its opponents, then bludgeon them so more. Canada set a record for goals in its first Nations League qualifier, in Florida against the US Virgin Islands.

But, blowouts, while they can be fun, don’t make for compelling viewing. And, even with the home team on the winning end, it’s hard to get people to spend money on a game where they know the outcome going in.

Yet, deep down, I know this fans-won’t-pay-for-blowouts argument is flimsy. Because that would assume that most fans are educated enough about the Nations League to make that kind of judgment. Truth is, outside of the hardest of the hardcore, sports fans in this country have no clue what the Nations League is or why it matters. There really is no understanding of why being at the top of the table is so important. Heck, most don’t even know there even is a table.

I mean, credit to CONCACAF, it has created a new tournament, a new vision for the region, and has basically kept it a secret from the mainstream.

And, the hard sell can be tough for Canada, as it’s not like you can bring Davies in from Vancouver or a guy from Europe to do a  bunch of talk radio in Toronto. Herdman is the tool Canada does have — and he needs to be used. The game, face it, needs to be pushed.

It’s great for Canada that Herdman has put together the best team this country has seen since, well, I was young and thin. But it won’t be a great look if this new, maybe golden generation, makes its home bow in front of a lot of empty seats.



1- GK- Simon Thomas | NOR / Kongsvinger IL
2- FB- Zachary Brault-Guillard | FRA / Olympique Lyonnais
3- CB- Manjrekar James | DEN / FC Fredericia
4- CB- Derek Cornelius | SRB / FK Javor Ivanjica
5- CB- David Edgar | CAN / Ottawa Fury FC
6- M- Samuel Piette | CAN / Impact de Montréal
7- M- Russell Teibert | CAN / Vancouver Whitecaps FC
8- M- Scott Arfield | SCO / Glasgow Rangers FC
9- F- Cyle Larin | TUR / Beşiktaş JK
10- M- David Junior Hoilett | WAL / Cardiff City FC
11- F- Tosaint Ricketts | CAN / Toronto FC
12- W- Alphonso Davies | CAN / Vancouver Whitecaps FC
13- M- Atiba Hutchinson | TUR / Beşiktaş JK
14- W- Liam Millar | ENG / Liverpool FC U-23
15- CB- Doneil Henry | CAN / Vancouver Whitecaps FC
16- M- Jay Chapman | CAN / Toronto FC
17- FB- Ashtone Morgan | CAN / Toronto FC
18- GK- James Pantemis | CAN / Impact de Montréal
19- F- Lucas Cavallini | MEX / Puebla FC
20- F- Jonathan David | BEL / KAA Gent
21- M- Jonathan Osorio | CAN / Toronto FC
22- GK- Alessandro Busti | ITA / Juventus FC U-23
23- M- Ballou Jean-Yves Tabla | ESP / FC Barcelona B


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  1. Greg

    October 3, 2018 at 10:09 am

    This game should have been held outside of Toronto/Vancouver/Montreal, in a city that hasn’t had a men’s nation team game in ages and where the novelty of seeing them play would be fresh and the main selling point (as opposed to relying on the quality of the opposition).

    • Derek

      October 3, 2018 at 7:04 pm

      Easier said than done. There’s the issue of what training facility the team will be using and right now it’s hard to beat the set up that exists in Toronto, Vancouver, Montreal or at the Nottawasaga Inn up in Alliston that the CSA are quite fond of. The only non-big three city you could really make a case for right now is Hamilton.

      In general, I agree with you and I hope that the CPL cities will raise the standard of the training facilities that currently exist and make it more compelling to move the games around.

  2. Kent

    October 3, 2018 at 7:08 am

    Agreed. It’s disappointing how few seats have been sold. I’ve had a kind of paradoxical experience with fan interest in this game. I organized a group of people from work to buy 10 tickets for the game, which is more than I’ve ever gotten to go to a Canada game. But then when 2 people ended up needing to travel for work and miss the game, it’s been impossible for me to find someone to buy their tickets. When I post a picture of my kid in a soccer uniform on facebook it gets 50 likes and several comments. When I posted about a Barcelona player committing to Canada and I have 2 extra tickets available I got one pity like from an Aunt that hates sports, and no comments.

    All that being said, it was just 3 years ago when Dominica last came to Toronto and the attendance for that was only 9,749. That was a World Cup Qualifier, so I always assumed attendance for this game would be less. I’m just not sure how much. less.

    • Mark Toale

      October 3, 2018 at 5:21 pm

      I’m a TFC season ticket holder and haven’t been to a game since July when the city locked out IATSE, the union who works setting up stages and does other work on the Ex grounds. I won’t cross a picket line and I know some others who won’t either. Not sure if that is having an effect on sales but I won’t go unless the lockout is resolved. I’m hoping it will be because I’m very excited about the current team but it’s a matter of principle for me.

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