Toronto, Seattle hope drought ends with sip from MLS Cup

Thu Dec 8, 2016 8:08pm EST
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By Steve Keating

TORONTO (Reuters) - Either Toronto FC or Seattle Sounders, both hailed as model franchises when they entered the league, will finally deliver on the success predicted for them when Major League Soccer crowns a new champion on Saturday.

With fan bases many European clubs would envy and deep-pocketed ownership, Toronto and Seattle entered the league to massive hype and fanfare but fell short of expectations until this season as both secured their first MLS Cup berth.

The Sounders, who averaged crowds of over 42,000 a game this year, have been the MLS 'nearly men' since their debut in 2009 as they qualified for the playoffs each season but were never able to reach the summit.

While Seattle teased fans, Toronto tested their supporters' loyalty every step of the way.

With every game of Toronto's inaugural season in 2007 sold out, MLS Commissioner Don Garber labeled the franchise's launch as one of the most successful in pro sports and a blueprint for future expansion teams.

But the marketing magic was nowhere to be seen on the field as Toronto muddled through eight losing seasons under eight head coaches with the low ebb coming from 2011-2013, a morbid stretch where the club failed to win more than six games in a season.

"Losing can become as much a habit as winning and for me that was one of the biggest challenges because I could feel that within the club," said Toronto coach Greg Vanney. "We still couldn't get out of our own way and believe enough in what we were doing to be able to shift the tide.

"Quite honestly as a club we have done an amazing job to be able to shift that paradigm in just a couple of years."   Continued...

Nov 27, 2016; Commerce City, CO, USA; Seattle Sounders midfielder Nicolas Lodeiro (10) celebrates after the game against the Colorado Rapids in the second leg of the MLS Western Conference Championship at Dick's Sporting Goods Park. The Sounders won 1-0. Mandatory Credit: Chris Humphreys-USA TODAY Sports