MONTREAL – The buzz is strong in this one.
Nearly three months after Montreal Impact president Joey Saputo publicly worried that his club may “make history in a negative way” by drawing measly crowds at CONCACAF Champions League home games, a national attendance record is about to be broken.
The Impact sold 2,000 newly-issued tickets on Monday ahead of Wednesday’s CCL final second leg against Club América at the Olympic Stadium. The 61,004-strong sellout crowd will establish a new record attendance for professional soccer in Canada. The previous record was also set at the Big O, when 60,860 fans saw David Beckham’s LA Galaxy tie the Impact 1-1 on May 12, 2012.
The first batch of tickets – 59,020 of them – had sold out even before the first leg at Estadio Azteca last Wednesday. Impact VP Nick De Santis told MLSsoccer.com on Monday that this had spurred the Impact on to “put ourselves in the best conditions” to give the supporters a reason to cheer them on.
“In the end, now, there’s no looking back, saying ‘It’s great, what we’ve accomplished.’ The mentality now from the club, from the players and from our fans is ‘We want to win this, and we’re not going to be happy if we don’t win this,’” De Santis said. “We truly believe that, now in Montreal, with our fans behind us, playing at home, we have a fighting chance.
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Saputo’s heartfelt remarks to the media on February 4, when he expressed his worries that “the buzz is not there anymore,” certainly raised awareness. The Impact may not be reaching as big an audience in traditional media as the NHL’s Montreal Canadiens are, but they thrive on social media. According to media monitoring firm Influence Communication, the #IMFC hashtag did better than any Canadiens-related keyword on Twitter from April 21 to 27.
Winning fosters resonance, and Montreal will hope for more of that this Wednesday. They also want to capture the public imagination with a mosaic they have touted as “the biggest ever unveiled at a sporting event in Quebec” – for which they exhort the fans to get to the stadium as early as possible.
“We’re urging the fans to make sure they get behind us and support us,” midfielder Nigel Reo-Coker told reporters, “to create an atmosphere in the Olympic Stadium that will be remembered for many years to come.”