Guest Post: The rise of MLS Cup; the demise of GSLs

sporting kansas citA couple of weeks before MLS Cup, we wrote about Jamie Clary’s quest to make it to his 18th straight MLS Cup Final.  Thanks to outreach efforts from the Sporting Communications Department, Mr. Clary was able to attend the game and today he provides some thoughts on his efforts to get to Kansas City and the changes in the MLS ticket buying landscape.

Recall that Mr. Clary wrote:  “After three friends and I left MLS Cup ’96, we were so enthusiastic about having a legitimate top-tier league that we promised “every year”. The four of us committed to attending every future MLS championship game to support the league.”

MLS is a growing league yet many of the front offices around MLS still remember the league’s early days, and fan relationships are still cultivated and grown.  Kudos to Rob Thomson of Sporting who reached out to Mr. Clary through Footiebusiness and helped him keep the streak alive.  With so much on his plate with less than two weeks to prepare for the Final, Mr. Thomson reached out and provided a shining example of fan outreach.  When asked why, Mr. Thomson simply said: “Sporting Kansas City got Jamie two tickets to the match because this league, and certainly our organization, are driven by great fans. We were happy to help him continue his wonderful and impressive streak of MLS Cups.”

After the game, Mr. Clary wrote the following about his effort to secure tickets and the magnanimous gesture by SKC.


After writing the article I embarked on five avenues to secure tickets. Ben Berger, this web site’s owner, offered tickets through his guaranteed seat licenses. Goalie Joe Cannon read about my quest and offered assistance. Rob Thomson, executive VP of Sporting Kansas City, got involved. I took advantage of a friendship with an employee of one of the SKC owners. And I worked the traditional market of box office sales and re-sales. Also, I considered buying a guaranteed seat license.

When Rob Thomson came through, I ended the other efforts. (Rob, look for a gift card in the mail.)

Had I not had these contacts, my streak would have ended. Anybody without those contacts or a compelling story to generate those contacts will be left without tickets to future finals. The overwhelming  majority of publicly sold tickets to future MLS Cup games will land in the hands of season ticket holders of the home team.  Some others will go to season ticket holders of the away team. The others will be used by people paying a premium through secondary markets.

That’s bad for me; good for MLS; bad for soccer fans; good home team fans, the people who provided Saturday’s unprecedented atmosphere.

We got to this point because the league last year chose to play future finals at the home of the higher seed. This year we can say that decision will forever generate a greater demand for tickets than the supply of tickets. It used to be the other way around.

The next decision for the league in this vein is to decide the future of the guaranteed seat license. The lifelong status enables holders to purchase tickets to the all-star game and MLS Cup. They have generated some revenue. But now they are a league liability.

Nobody inside MLS looked at Saturday’s crowd and felt that the GSL holders had any positive impact. If GSLers had bought tickets to the game, they likely sold them. If they didn’t sell them, they appreciated the enthusiastic atmosphere but did not contribute to it. They probably did not wave SKC flags, show up in team colors, or add to the decibels.

They—including me—aren’t the fans that MLS needs.

For the all-star game, GSL holders might be more noticeable only because the crowd is less passionate.

Maybe MLS needed those GSLs some time ago. Maybe they produced some significant revenue once. But I don’t see MLS continuing the GSL for much longer.

That’s good for MLS and bad for me because I may be in the market for one soon.

2 Responses

  1. […] Guest Post: The rise of MLS Cup; the demise of GSLs […]

  2. So great of Rob Thomson of Sporting to do that. Fans are everything and kudos to him for reaching out. Awesome!

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