TORONTO – Canadian national team goalkeeper Milan Borjan had a message to send.
“A lot of people don’t believe in this team,” said Borjan. “You could see that with the fans today: 10,000 only, with Canada playing. With all these young guys, with a lot of future in them, playing in big clubs. It’s too bad we don’t have enough fans to fill the whole stadium.”
The official attendance for that match was 10,224. With the visit of the United States on Tuesday to Toronto, Borjan & Co. are hopeful that the fans will be there to greet them.
“It’s crucial,” said CanMNT coach John Herdman. “But more for the fans to come along and be part of something really meaningful.”
A Canadian Soccer Association spokesperson told MLSsoccer.com that around 15,000 tickets have been sold for the match on Tuesday thus far. The supporters' section is almost all sold out. BMO Field's current capacity sits around 30,000 after renovations, with the previous capacity being 21,556.
The largest attendance for a men’s national team game at BMO Field was back in 2008 when 21,978 watched Canada draw 1-1 with Jamaica in World Cup Qualification. That mark was approached in September 2017, again against Jamaica, when the Reggae Boyz came to Toronto for a friendly with the Canadians winning 2-0.
The last ten matches at BMO Field, stretching back to June 2012, have had an average attendance of 14,292. They included five World Cup qualifiers, two friendlies, and one each of Gold Cup, Concacaf Nations League qualification and Concacaf Nations League matches.
“It’s not a friendly match, not something that we’re just walking up together, playing six subs, that means nothing at the end of it,” This means a lot our country, to football in our country,” stressed Herdman. “The 17 [FIFA World Rankings] points we could take from this game could really push us into the Hexagonal where, if we get into the Hex, we bring more meaningful, top-quality games back to Canada and test these boys even more.”
The top six sides in the region, based on the June 2020 FIFA rankings, will enter the Hex for World Cup qualification next year, competing for the three full Concacaf spots in Qatar come 2022. The rest will undertake a grueling journey with the dim light of the region’s half-spot long in the distance.
“Your fans are everything,” Herdman said. “Every time we go away – you go into St. Kitts and they’re doing everything they can to make sure that Canada feels uncomfortable and their team is given a chance, that extra that fans will bring.”
A rocking, packed BMO Field has propelled its team to success before.
“I see how passionate the fans were in the games we’ve had and I’ve seen how passionate the Toronto FC fans are here. They certainly, in that [MLS Cup] championship run, made a difference,” noted Herdman. “We’re hoping everyone comes out and pushes these boys over the line.
“And it’s going to need a big push,” he added. “If you look at our track record, it’s 1985 since we beat this team. Yeah, we’ve got talent, but we’ve had talent in previous teams as well. We’ve come close, but I think the fans could make that bit of difference and we’d love them to be there.”
Canada would follow up that September win with a second one days later, 1-0 away to the Cubans in the Cayman Islands. With six points from their first two matches, it is expected that progression to the knockout stage, the Nations League final Championships, will come down to Tuesday’s home match against the Americans and the return leg in Florida in November.
“We’ve got to get the support,” implored Borjan. “These guys, they fight for this country, they come a lot of kilometers to be here, to play these games, to win and to bring Canada to the World Cup. This is very disappointing, for the people not coming to support us.
“As a team, we’re going to continue winning, continue bringing good football here,” he added. “And I hope, in the future, the stadium will be full.”