For many supporters’ groups around MLS, the first rule of tifo is borrowed from the 1999 movie Fight Club: “We don’t talk about tifo.”
But in discussing tifo with a few groups around the league who would, in fact, divulge a few thoughts, I picked up on a common theme for 2017. This season, they said, is all about taking their creations to the next level – whether it’s making them bigger, bolder, or even taking new advantage of stadium technology and construction.
For the Cauldron in Kansas City, that means employing the overhanging roof of Children's Mercy Park in displays throughout the year. According to one of the Cauldron’s principal tifo team members, Dan Temple, they consider the high water mark to date to be last year’s "Night King" display. That's not only because of the artistry involved, but also in the complex combination of rope-pulling and synchronization required to execute it.
“We want to go bigger and better this year, and the roof will definitely be in play,” Temple said prior to last week’s display. That one didn't disappoint, naturally. The tifo welcomed FC Dallas to Children’s Mercy Park with an “Unfinished Business” banner and a giant Benny Feilhaber, rising from the floor to an arms-crossed, glowering behind goal position.
“The team helped us set up the rigging,” Temple says, adding with a laugh, “I don’t think the lawyers want us up there anymore.” Cauldron members faced four hours of assembly and testing starting mid-morning Saturday, made a bit more challenging by wind and snow, but figured it all out by evening kickoff.
“Nothing tore," he says. "That’s always something we’re scared about.” Feilhaber appreciated it, too.
Meanwhile, in Columbus, the Crew SC fans behind #TIFOSWEAT are making plans for displays in MAPFRE Stadium this year. The venue does boast a roof structure on its north end that’s ideal for tifo, particularly at highly attended matches for which bleachers are moved into the stage area. You might remember this group's work during last November's US-Mexico World Cup Qualfiying match.
Morgan Hughes, of #TIFOSWEAT, wryly recalls the tifo's genesis. “We get an idea," he says, "and then say, ‘Let’s screw it up until it’s the least screwed up it can be.’”
Meanwhile, for MLS play in 2017, Crew SC fans will continue to create roof-raised tifos only for their best-attended games, but also using the uniquely angled Nordecke as a backdrop for most of what they mount during the year. As start-of-season weather in central Ohio isn’t conducive to drying paint, #TIFOSWEAT is planning its 2017 debut for the Mar. 25 match against Portland — a reprise of the 2015 MLS Cup (7:30 pm ET, MLS LIVE in US and Canada).
Meanwhile, another group planning to enter the tifo-innovation dialogue this season is Houston’s Texian Army. They're celebrating their second season in BBVA Compass Stadium’s Zona Naranja, a second-deck supporters’ section which presents some intriguing display possibilities.
Group member Lauren Norman will specifically help these Dynamo supporters put their fandom into fabric. In fact she’s already created the new-and-improved signature piece for the group — a black, white, and orange take on the Texas flag, which comes to life in the Zona Naranja after every Dynamo goal. “It’s 30 percent bigger than the old one, so now it covers the entire Texian Army part of the supporters’ section,” she says. (That means it's about 1300 square feet in size.)
While Norman’s guarded about when a tifo might debut, they’re working with the club on logistics. Fans should look no later than June 23, when the Dynamo host FC Dallas for the middle leg of this season’s Texas Derby.
Another guarded-but-optimistic tifo captain, Darcie Kerr from the Vancouver Southsiders, looks forward to some new possibilities for 2017. They face a couple of challenges, namely that their venue, BC Place, is shared with other teams playing other sports. But Kerr she also notes that they’ve been lobbying the club for some new rigging possibilities, and feels optimistic that they’ll be able to able to take advantage this season.
Anyone looking to stake a claim for most innovative tifo, though, faces some stiff competition. The first MLS match of the 2017 season, after all, featured the Timbers Army’s incredible and intricate Bob Ross-themed “Happy Little Trees” tifo.
Consider the tone set.