On November 12, 2006 a small group of Canadian soccer fans gathered at Toronto’s Duke of Gloucester pub.
Some of them had known each other for a couple years and arrived wearing the yellow and black of the Toronto Lynx. Other’s, mostly dressed in Voyageur’s red and white, awkwardly exchanged internet discussion board names.
“Hi, I’m 86Dreamer, what do you go by?”
“I’m Blizzard4Eva. I love your posts!”
And, so on. It was awkward greetings of (mostly) young men that they had previously known had existed but weren’t really sure until they actually say them.
The folks that had made the trek to the pub that afternoon were there to watch the 2006 MLS Cup between the Houston Dynamo and the New England Revolution.
This was one of the very first official MLS meet ups for Toronto’s new team. The Voyageurs had arranged it at the home of U-Sector, the supporter’s group of the Lynx that would go on to become a founding group at BMO Field for TFC’s first season five months after.
A couple of the guys that were at that pub meet-up 13 years ago are getting on
planes this week to fly to Seattle to watch the 2019 MLS Cup final – the third in four years that TFC has now been involved in.
It’s become a part of those fans life in a way that could not have been predicted back then. From that group to the thousands of similar groups that emerged in the early days of TFC there have been lifelong friendships, marriages, heartbreaks and even a few babies that have resulted. The creation of TFC created a community that continues to thrive today.
In our obsession over trying to figure out what TFC and MLS has meant for Canada in a larger sense we tend to ignore the importance of these soccer communities that were created in the three Canadian MLS cities. With the league coming to this country, the club game was legitimized in the minds of many Canadian sports fans and the tiny, niche gatherings that had existed before suddenly got a whole lot bigger.
The soccer-loving and watching community in Canada has created a generation of more informed consumers of the sport that, in turn, demand more from the CSA, from the professional clubs and from their local communities.
Those fans became players, referees, coaches, administrators and critics of the system. They forced change where needed and refuse to let complacency set in. Sure, there are still problems, but if you think Canadian soccer isn’t in a better place in 2019 than it was in 2006 then I would suggest you probably weren’t around in 2006.
The biggest change that the groundswell of fans in Toronto, Montreal and Vancouver created? Confidence in Halifax, Hamilton, Winnipeg, York, Calgary, Edmonton and Victoria that they could find a similar group of people in those markets. Groups that would hopefully grow and evolve in the same way that those in the MLS cities did and, in turn, keep the cycle moving.
So, the next time you want to suggest that there is no net benefit to Canadian soccer from the success of one of its MLS teams think again.
You may hate TFC and want the to lose this weekend, but the fact that they exist for you to hate is evidence that the game has grown in this country and that it will continue to do so one fan and one club at a time.