Staggering: Portland Timbers MLS Cup final tickets sell fast
The Timbers organization has been using access to the MLS Cup Final as an incentive for season ticket holders to renew their commitment for the 2022 season.
Those who took the plunge at the weekend to re-up for 2022 were offered a chance to buy cup final tickets online from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. on Tuesday, Dec 7.
Season ticket holders who had not renewed were offered the 1 to 3 p.m. time window. The general public entered the fray at 3 p.m. Tuesday, assuming there was anything left. Season ticket holders could buy up to four cup final tickets per account. (A family of three could be under one account.)
The strategy may have worked: Twenty minutes after the first ticket went on sale on Tuesday morning, there were only spots left in the general admission area of the North End and the Widmer Brothers Southern Front behind the south end goal.
Renewals have been lagging this season due to COVID-19 fears and a protest of the club's handling of sexual abuse allegations against former Portland Thorns coach Paul Riley. The protest included a partial boycott of concessions and merchandise, although some disgruntled fans may have waited to renew their season tickets.
The Timbers President of Business, Mike Golub, told the Portland Tribune Tuesday the renewal push usually happens in August but in 2021 was put off until fall because of COVID-19. The club does not disclose how many season ticket holders it has, but Golub said it is more than 50% of the stadium's 25,000 capacity.
"This is a league-run event and we don't control the ticketing. MLS takes out the mix several thousand tickets for out-of-town visitors, etcetera, and an additional several thousand tickets for the visiting fans. That leaves us with a lot less fans than we have season ticket holders."
Golub said he knew there would always be some unhappy people but they decided season ticket holders who renew should get the first crack.
At 6:30 p.m. on Dec. 4, minutes after the Timbers qualified for the final by beating Real Salt Lake, season ticket holders were offered a chance to buy final tickets at 10 a.m. on Dec. 7, three hours before the general public. They were told "you must renew by 11:59 p.m. on Sunday, Dec. 5" to ensure the early access.
$10 for New Yorkers
Prices for final tickets have shocked Timbers fans as some saw, on Monday evening, the fanciest seats in the Tanner Ridge section of the new east stand on sale for $750. Golub confirmed that was the secondary market, not face value. "Maybe they were from NYCFC or the league, we don't know," he said.
NYCFC is subsidizing some of its fans' tickets so they cost just $10. "Every team does their own promotion, because they have to pay their airfare and hotel to get out here," Golub said. "It was a nice thing for New York to do."
General admission tickets for the Timbers Army area of the North End were more modest at $58 plus fees on SeatGeek Tuesday.
Axe Society members, that is, season ticket holders who have had their season tickets from the old United Soccer league days, before the Timbers joined Major League Soccer in 2011, were also offered a chance to hold the round tarpaulin with the Timbers axe logo on it on the field before the game. This honor (as well as a match ticket) usually goes to youth groups and nonprofits.
Sales are handled by SeatGeek. The online ticket scramble could cause headaches. An email on Monday from the Timbers to season ticket holders read: "No access code needed, just refresh at 10 a.m. tomorrow, Dec. 7, while being logged into your SeatGeek account."
From the seating map, NYCFC fans have been allotted a bigger than usual section of the stadium. Rather than just the tiny corner next to the Multnomah Athletic Club, NYCFC have been allotted sections 123, 122, 223, 222 and 221.
Golub added that the MLS Cup final is a showcase for the league and that even companies who have suites in the northwest corner of the stadium have to trade their suites for regular tickets to make way for MLS guests.
"It becomes the place to be for the soccer industry, there's going to be many thousands of people coming, and it'll really be happening," he said. "We invite friends of the club, but the league runs the national guest list. We've got clubs and suites and decks and ledges and we'll be using all of them, there's a lot of good hospitality areas … but the league takes roughly half of them. It kills us not to be able to satisfy all our fans."
Golub said the game will be great for the fans and the city. "We love nothing more than to be able to roll back Saturday (versus Real Salt Lake) and have everybody in their seats, but it's just not the way it is, being a championship game."
The Portland Timbers are set to host the 2021 MLS Cup against New York City FC on Saturday, Dec. 11. The match kicks off at noon at Providence Park.
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