December 10th is a little more than a month away. In that time, the season will inevitably colden, harden, and stiffen. Baseball will have concluded, football’s playoff positions will begin to solidify, and hockey and basketball will begin to reach midseason form.
December 10th also signifies the end of Major League soccer, with the MLS Cup Final.
Nine teams have the chance to host the final, with DC, Philadelphia, and Montreal at the whims of whoever wins in the west (assuming United, Union, or the Impact make it that far). Of those ten, who has the best venue to host? Below is a subjective list of venues, ranked least favorable to most, factoring variables such as location, weather, capacity, venue type, and other sports competing that same weekend.
9. New York City FC - The first reason for the NYCFC selection is an obvious one: The stadium itself. Though not even close to a decade old, the grounds were constructed with only baseball in mind. 49,000 seats is impressive, but many will have inconvenient sightlines and whole portions will be so far removed from the action. The field itself for the players will be slow and small, providing what would likely be a choppy, packed affair that wouldn’t make for a fun final game. Their location in the Bronx removes them from any interference from other sports however, but limited parking would make the destination difficult for traveling patrons. Finally, New York’s average temperatures during that time tend to hover just above freezing...not bad in comparison to other venues, but not pleasant either.
8. FC Dallas - The timing couldn’t be worse for the team doing the best. The construction of the soccer hall of fame on the end of the stadium still continues, preventing the team to sell out an entire section all year and through the playoffs. On the other end is the Beer Garden, which could be converted to temporary seating or Standing Room Only tickets if needed, but the venue could still only hold more than 17,000 with a glaringly empty end. The issue of traveling to Frisco limits those in Dallas without proper transportation from making the journey as well (though I don’t expect any Cup Final to not sell out).
7. Real Salt Lake - Average temperatures hovering around the freezing mark, a stadium with a 20,000 capacity all in the open air, the Utah Jazz playing the same night as the final, and an alcohol-restricted city not exactly known for its nightlife hosting a week-long event with travelers from around the country...not the greatest formula for success.
6. Colorado Rapids - The Mile High City in the middle of December? Average lows in Denver hover around 17 degrees Fahrenheit, a biting cold with any chance of precipitation would make for a possibly unplayable match (USA v Costa Rica in March 2013 comes to mind). Driving to the stadium in conditions like those could see the stadium only partially filled, depending on severity. These are all just hypothetical situations of course, but the probability of it happening in in the outskirts of Denver are the highest among all other locations eligible to host. The week-long party leading up to the final would have to be an all-indoor affair, surely.
5. Toronto FC - Yes, Toronto is already cold and will only get worse by December. However, the stadium’s new renovations are perfect for the team’s recent success, now able to comfortably seat 30,000 fans, and have quality amenities for staff and media. Additionally, the city has plenty to do for the entire week, allowing for a party-like atmosphere and celebration for soccer. Finally, both the Leafs and Raptors are out of town that weekend. All in all, weather permitting, Toronto would be a reasonable venue for a Final (as was evidence in 2010 when venues were pre-selected). Let us hope that if they do host, the fans refrain from littering the field.
4. Sporting Kansas City - With 2013 still fresh in the mind, one could argue that Sporting Park is an unwise facility to host yet another late-year event. Conditions were bitter, fans, media, and players all made note of the impact mother nature had on the experience. However, that day was an anomaly as Kansas City’s average temperatures are mostly above freezing, not the 20 degree winter war zone we all had to endure. Given what happened, the event managers will no doubt have a contingency plan in place this year should they have the opportunity to host. Additionally, the Kansas City Chiefs will play on Thursday night, causing little in the way of traffic or hotel availability.
3. Los Angeles Galaxy - Southern California’s residents would likely have their jackets and coats out, but only because they aren’t accustomed to the kinds of conditions the rest of the United States and Canada are forced to live through. Any visitor would clamor at the chance to spend the weekend in 50 degree weather with only the slightest (if any) chance of rain. Carson is also removed from most other sports venues, so the hosting Rams, Kings, Clippers, and Lakers Saturday and Sunday will be of no concern. The Ducks, however, are fairly close by; they play Friday and Sunday. No matter. The Galaxy have proven they are more than capable of hosting a final...more than enough times to count now.
2. New York Red Bulls - Red Bull Arena has proven itself to be a reliable site for massive events. Even at their worst (November 2012), they stepped up and hosted a postponed playoff match against D.C. United a day after getting pounded by a snowstorm that shut down the entire city only a week after getting pummeled by a hurricane...which also shut the city down. The facilities themselves are top marks, and transportation to and from the event have improved markedly. The only concern would be the New York Giants and New Jersey Devils commandeering hotel space. The Rangers would control Midtown Manhattan space as well. But this is New York. Space is aplenty for tourists and traveling players and staff.
1 Seattle Sounders - Could it be anyone else? The Seahawks are away, so the Sounders will play...on a clean turf with no lines, with 69,000 screaming fans in a top class stadium in mild Pacific Northwest weather right in the heart of downtown. Transportation has been proven to be completely reliable, the city has hosted massive events such as the NFC Championship games in both 2014 and 2015, and the region has shown they are soccer crazy. The only problem the Sounders will face would be whether or not they make it that far in the playoffs.