An annual tradition in the MLS season is a visit from none other than Commissioner Don Garber. Basing ourselves off of his visit last season, the Montreal community was already curious about the All-Star game. However this season, it was focused on at a whole new level.
Garber started off by commenting on how amazing the Nutrilait complex is and¸ if every team in the MLS had locations like such, the development of soccer in the United States and Canada would progress immensely. Garber didn’t deny the importance and quality that the Montreal Impact brings to the MLS although, he somewhat failed to provide a valid point on why they are still being dismissed as a favorable location for an All-Star game. He repeatedly said that it is not a matter of if but when. However, that when seems further than expected. Last season, Garber even went as far as mentioning that the league wanted to commemorate the city’s 375th anniversary, and the All-Star game could have been a perfect grand event for that.
He brought up two points to explain what Montreal is lacking in order for it to be the next destination for an All-Star game; lack of consistent sellouts and lack of city implication. Using the lack of consistency in attendance as what is stopping an All-Star game in Montreal is deceiving. Many clubs in the past, who are not high in attendance during the season, long have gotten an All-Star game. More importantly, given that Montreal has been known to draw record-breaking crowds for special events (CONCACAF, playoffs, etc.), this would not have been an issue. When compared to clubs like Colorado who consistently struggle to fill their stadium (averaging 15,526 fans in the last 5 years) and got the All-Star game in 2007 and 2015. Or more recently, Chicago is hosting the game this year sitting second last in attendance last season with 15,602. These two clubs struggle along with many more in filling their stadiums while Montreal, since their debut in the MLS, averages 19,870 in attendance (finishing in 8th place for last season’s attendance with an average crowd of 20,669). Statistics do not lie and given this information, Garber’s first point is extremely unfounded and lacked research.
While attendance in Montreal may be inconsistent, in which bigger games attract bigger crowds, the Impact fan base would have likely preferred the focus to be drawn on other aspects. Garber brought up his second point briefly towards the end of his press conference; he explained that one of the reasons that Chicago did get the All-Star game this season is largely due to the city’s implications. He shared that discussions were conducted with the mayor of Chicago to create many events in and around the All-Star game. on other aspects.
Don Garber mentioned that he never had the opportunity to meet Denis Coderre. It would be very surprising if Coderre were to deny the Impact and the city of Montreal of this touristic opportunity. For those who make their way to the Saputo stadium, you have likely either seen or run into Coderre who is known to be a sports enthusiast and tries to promote Montreal sports teams.
Hopefully, the stadium will reach more sellouts from now until the end of the season, primarily for the sake of the team. By this time next year, if the stadium is constantly full, hopefully, Garber will provide a more truthful response on the when of the glorious All-Star game to be hosted in Montreal. Moreover, hopefully, a meeting between Garber and Coderre will take place in the near future to help further promote this idea in the mind of the league.