TORONTO -- The first thing you notice is the clapping. It starts in BMO Field’s south stand, home to Toronto FC’s main supporters’ groups, and wafts northwards over the stadium. It envelops the pitch like a cloud. And for the past couple months, BMO Field has been an even louder fortress than usual. (It has also been colder than usual, but let’s not get bogged down by that fact.)
Given the overall volume tonight in the MLS Cup final (8 pm ET, FOX, UniMás | TSN1/3/4, RDS in Canada), it might be hard to make out distinct segments of fans amidst all the sound and fury. But rest assured that TFC's distinct supporters' groups will be there, and behind their unified support front, they present is a complex and dedicated fan culture.
Here's a breakdown of all of the main TFC supporters' groups:
You will be shocked to learn that Original 109 is named after the section of BMO Field that goes by that number. The group formalized after fans met near the top of that section, and the "original" in its name connotes the group’s involvement with the club from the start. Other fans that started out in different sections of Toronto FC’s stadium, but were drawn to the sound and atmosphere created in the 109, have subsequently moved to be part of the group. As a result, Original 109 has come to occupy the entirety of that section, and infectiously so.
They're named after a Mitchell and Webb sketch in which drinking glasses of wine gives a freshly minted barrister the necessary confidence to do his job. (“You’ve now learned one of mankind’s great secrets: That everything mankind does is slightly easier when you’re drunk." The Inebriatti occupy Section 114 of BMO Field, and put otherwise, they are front [and nearly] center of all that goes on during Toronto FC’s matches. For those worried about inclement and freezing weather at the MLS Cup on Saturday, know that the Inebriatti will be fine. As one of their chants goes: “Toronto! We love you so! We sing for you no matter rain or snow!”
The U-Sector actually predates the formation of Toronto FC. They started off as supporters of the Toronto Lynx, who used to play in Varsity Stadium in downtown Toronto. Though the Lynx long ago moved elsewhere, U-Sector continued to be named after their corner of Varsity Stadium, and that name stuck even after the creation of Toronto FC. U-Sector is known for their vocal traveling support, as well as creative banner ideas. Famously, members hoisted a sign that read “Has been? All signs point to yes” behind the New York Red Bulls' Claudio Reyna whenever the visiting player took a corner.
Tribal Rhythm Sector
These are the fans to thank for the percussive and increasingly diverse quality of Toronto FC’s support. Founded in 2007 to represent the Greater Toronto Area’s Latin, Caribbean, and African communities — here, as ever, it’s useful to remember that half of the city’s population was born abroad — the Tribal Rhythm Sector has been part of the club’s support since day one. They bring soca and steel-pan drums to BMO Field’s section 118, but the sounds reverberate across the pitch and are an integral part of the Toronto FC experience.
Red Patch Boys
Insofar as soccer is war, the Red Patch Boys have extended the metaphor to supporters’ culture. Their name stems from the red-patch-wearing 1st Canadian Infantry Division, which was deployed in World War II. Like many modern soccer groups, the Red Patch Boys — not all of whom, despite the name, are male — grew out of online discussions and first formed their executive in 2007.
Their section of BMO Field is known as “the Bunker,” both in recognition of the environment they create, and as a nice tie-in with their military-inspired roots. Outside of matches, the Red Patch Boys congregate in Shoeless Joe’s Restaurant, which, at this point, is a central point on any map of Toronto’s soccer culture.