When New York City FC plays the Philadelphia Union in the Eastern Conference Final of the 2021 MLS Cup Playoffs, there won’t be many away supporters in the stands at Subaru Park: Reportedly 262 tickets were allotted to NYCFC fans.
Out of those, 125 were set aside for members of The Third Rail, the supporters group that’s the beating heart of NYCFC fandom. The remaining tickets were made available to City Members yesterday and sold out immediately.
Additionally, approximately 150 tickets were allotted to NYCFC players and members of the staff. The NYCFC front office confirmed that Philadelphia offered around 400 tickets to City in total.
According to Andrew Tucker, president of The Third Rail, usually 500 away supporter tickets are made available for a regular-season game at Subaru Park. “Obviously I’m frustrated and disappointed,” Tucker said. “We have a lot of diehard supporters who are not going to be able to attend.”
But Tucker feels that the number of away supporter tickets is a matter best addressed by MLS. “The league mandates a minimum of 100 tickets to be available to supporters but I think for playoff games that should change to 500,” Tucker said. “The league knows the value of traveling supporters, that they only improve the atmosphere. I can understand why Philadelphia would want more seats for their fans. It’s not really a Philadelphia issue as much as it is a league issue.”
YES announcer Ian Paul Joy feels that 1000 tickets should have been made available. “I think that would satisfy our club, our fans,” he said. “My problem isn’t with the Philadelphia Union, it’s with MLS.” High-profile games like this one between regional heavyweights should take into account the heightened interest of all fans. “Football is becoming bigger and the rules need to change,” he said, noting that when he played for Bundesliga club FC St. Pauli traveling supporters allotted as many as 10,000 tickets.
In part, the skyrocketing demand is the result of NYCFC’s newfound postseason success. “This is the first time we had this problem: It’s a playoff game, the biggest game in NYCFC history,” Joy said, and it’s against an opponent that’s an easy bus ride away. “To be honest it’s a good problem to have.”
The limited allocation is forcing NYCFC fans to buy tickets on the secondary market at inflated prices—and possibly in the rowdy home supporters sections. Right now, many of the least expensive tickets on StubHub cost around $125, and are located in the Supporters stands.
An estimated 700 away supporters traveled to Gillette Stadium on Tuesday to watch NYCFC defeat the New England Revolution on penalty kicks. “As far as I’m aware they didn’t limit the number of our tickets,” Tucker said. “The tickets in New England matched the demand.”
That’s easy to do at Gillette Stadium, which has 65,000 seats. The math is different at Subaru Park, where the capacity is 18,500 and which regularly sells out. “Subaru Park and Gillette Stadium aren’t really comparable,” Tucker said. “It’s apples to oranges.”
Joy said that he was offered tickets, and he didn’t accept them. Instead, he asked that they be made available to NYCFC fans. “I’m going to be in New York at a watch party that’s going to be fantastic,” Joy said. “I will happily spend my time here with the supporters.”