MLS Making Preparations For Sounders-Toronto FC Final To Be Played In Snowy Conditions
The weather heading into Saturday’s Sounders-Toronto FC MLS Cup final is "fast becoming a topic of conversation" as the forecast "calls for temperatures below freezing with icy winds and -- unlike last year -- scattered snow flurries," according to Geoff Baker of the SEATTLE TIMES. The potential for about an inch of blowing snow has the league "prepared to use fluorescent orange balls in the game so players can better see them." The league will have "two dozen on site and a decision on whether to use them will be made by head referee Alan Kelly an hour before kickoff" (SEATTLE TIMES, 12/8). Toronto FC MF Michael Bradley said, "It’s going to be cold. It’s Toronto, right? It’s Toronto in December. Nobody thought any different." In Toronto, Laura Armstrong notes the forecast for the game includes a daytime temperature of 32 °F, and there is a 70% "chance of precipitation." Temperature-wise, that would be "an improvement on last year." MLS said that game-time temperature at field level in '16 was 28.4 °F, the "second-coldest reading for an MLS Cup final" since the league started recording it in '03. That could be "helped by an earlier start time" this year. Saturday afternoon’s 4:00pm ET kickoff is "four hours earlier than the first whistle last year" (TORONTO STAR, 12/8).
OUT OF MLS' CONTROL? MLS Commissioner Don Garber said, "If I could wave a magic wand we’d prefer to not have our MLS Cup in the middle of December. The last four MLS Cups have been in Kansas City, Columbus, Toronto and Toronto -- northern cities where the temperatures have been hovering around (freezing). It speaks to how complicated building a soccer league in North America is because you have so many pressures on the schedule and weather changes and challenges with the travel that we end up producing the best possible schedule with all of the other factors that weigh into our competitive format ... It’s going to be very difficult to do anything more than tweak it around the edges unless we dramatically change our format." Garber added, "The playoff format has been good. Our television ratings and our attendances were record-setting this year. People are getting used to it. ... I would give a couple of fingers off my hand to eliminate that November (FIFA) break. I don’t believe they’re changing it. The question is: Can we end our season before it? That would require us to have fewer games or change our format or start at a time of the year that’s unmanageable" (TORONTO SUN, 12/8).