Should Vancouver Have Been Forced to Forfeit?

Empire under the moon

Empire Field during a better evening. Photo by Mufae

Forfeits are usually a term for CYO soccer when a team doesn’t have the requisite ten players or there aren’t enough oranges for halftime.  Rarely does the terminology enter a debate in professional sports, where the money and resources are available to shift matches around based on inclement weather.  But after the postponement of the Vancouver Whitecaps match against Real Salt Lake, Jason Kreis raised the “f” word and raised even more interesting questions about whether such an option should exist in MLS.

Saturday’s regular season match between the two clubs was postponed after torrential rainfall essentially flooded Empire Field’s temporary grass pitch.  The temporary pitch had been installed in anticipation of the ‘Caps match against Manchester City today as part of their North American tour, but that temporary pitch could not drain the massive amounts of rain received in Vancouver by Saturday.  The pitch, however, will be ready for tonight’s game.

Setting aside the fact for now that an MLS club jeopardized a league match for a friendly, the decision to not play was the right one and no one disagrees with that.  But RSL coach Jason Kreis had an interesting quote following the postponement in the Salt Lake Tribune. When asked about the situation, he said “there is a leg to stand on for saying that it could be a forfeit because [Vancouver] is responsible for providing a playing surface that we can play on. With decisions to play international friendlies could come some accountability for what that is going to mean for your league games.”

The sentiment behind the quote is that RSL’s Saturdays are filled until October, right before the MLS playoffs.  The free date, October 8, is also a FIFA reserved date so RSL players could be missing for a make-up.  The other option is a midweek match, which will likely be the result and add to RSL’s schedule congestion.  Remember, they still have five games in hand over Seattle since they are still making up for the CONCACAF Champions League run.

Does Kreis has a valid complaint?  Yes.  Vancouver essentially gambled that redoing its for a meaningless friendly would hold up for the MLS game as well, and they lost the gamble.  As a result, they are culpable for the fact that the game could not be played and should be punished for it.  However, I don’t think the punishment should be a forfeit.  To allow a game to be forfeited due to field conditions would set a bad precedent for the league.  At what point are the Whitecaps responsible for the weather?  It is almost like saying FC Dallas is responsible for the 100 degree heat at kickoff for their match against DC this weekend.  Teams can only do so much to make games playable, but it is ultimately out of their hands on the weather behaving.  As such, the league should punish Vancouver but not with a forfeiture.

But what do you think?

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32 Responses to Should Vancouver Have Been Forced to Forfeit?

  1. Earl Reed says:

    The league is responsible for these friendlies being scheduled, through SUM. Do we know who ordered the pitch to be sodded? Was it Manchester City? Was it part of the contract to have a friendly?

    My point is that MLS cannot justifiably punish Vancouver when the match was likely not the product of the Whitecaps pursuing a friendly with Manchester City. It’s easy to understand the allure of the money coming in from these matches, but they do take their toll.

    If the Friendlies are important, then split the season into two halves:

    1st Half = Mid-march through end of May. 18 Matches in 13 Weeks
    2nd Half = Mid-August through Mid-November. 18 Matches in 13 Weeks.
    Playoffs and MLS Cup = Run Saturday and Tues/Wed up through early-to-mid December

    You then get MLS Cup in a period that is devoid of championships. You miss baseball completely, and Saturdays free up because College Football goes through a lull between Thanksgiving and Christmas. It’s before Saturday NFL Games and the playoffs. Plus the NBA, NHL, and NCAA Basketball are at their least-interesting points. This would also ensure that international tournaments and friendly matches aren’t adversely affecting regular season results.

  2. BamaMan says:

    But I thought MLS playing a summer schedule prevented such weather-borne mishaps from happening? Watching the MLS this season, it’s getting closer and closer to not just viability but success but instances like this make them look bush league to the casual observer.

    Promotion and relegation is a long way from being viable. But an August-May schedule is not. If the MLS really wants to make money from these friendlies, it’s a joke to play them concurrently with the regular season. It’s a joke to play games concurrently with the Gold Cup/World Cup. And, if those are the decisions they are going to make, it’s even more of a joke when, during the World Football Challenge, the MLS makes it obvious that their own league plays second fiddle to friendlies.

    • Robert says:

      Well said, Sir.

    • Sancho says:

      Why face competition against NFL, NBA, NHL and NCAA Football and Basketball when you can have a schedule shared mainly only with MLB?! A summer schedule is the way to go…

      • BamaMan says:

        MLS as it is competes head-to-head with March Madness at the beginning of the season, then the NBA Finals/Stanley Cup, then the Olympics/World Cup/international competitions, and then of course plays what should be the most exciting part of their season head-to-head with the NFL and NCAA football in the worst weather of their season.

        August-May, you beat the NFL to the punch and then play your playoffs in the deadzone of May, which also happens to be the best weather of the year to play soccer in in the US. And, more importantly, you align with the rest of the world’s calender so success in the WC and friendlies with superclubs complement the MLS instead of undermining it as they do now. Give teams a nice long winter break during the NFL playoffs. It’s imminently doable and would go a long way toward alleviating the concerns of diehard soccer fans.

      • Robert says:

        I’m really getting sick and tired of the whole don’t compete against NFL/MLB etc. MLS competes against other soccer leagues and is failing miserably in retaining soccer fans. A summer schedule is terrible because most people are on vacation and watching international tournaments.

        • Sancho says:


          Everyone knows the best of times are Spring and FALL. So the best way would have two two-month seasons: between April-May; and between August-September. Since you cannot play for only four months, and it is easier to unify those months through summer (jun/jul) than winter (oct/mar), that is how was done.

          Can you see the logic behind the choice?

          • BamaMan says:

            The same is true in England, Germany, and Japan (a closer analogue to the US). Yet they play an August-May schedule and fans love it. Their leagues don’t pit domestic league games against World Cup games. They don’t have a transfer window out of sync with the best leagues in the world. They don’t play their final league games and playoffs during the worst weather months of the year. We play soccer in June and July; it’s called the World Cup or the Gold Cup. Bad weather occasionally happens; fans endure it and, in the NFL and the EPL, they love it. Take a winter break from New Year’s till the week after the Super Bowl. Align the league not just with the rest of the world, but with our biggest regional partner (Mexico). We already overlap with NCAA football (my other game of choice as a fan); playing a championship game on the first week of December alongside SEC, ACC, and now Big Ten and Pac-12 Championships would be a disaster. Playing it Thanksgiving weekend would be a disaster. The diehards would still attend regular season games those weekends, but the casual fans who would tune in for a Championship game will not. But play it in May when you have the sports calender basically to yourself and you’ve got a great event that also feeds into the summer international calender and the increasingly popular UEFA Champions League final. Soccer diehards will be appeased; casual sports fans will have a reason to watch.

          • Sancho says:

            BamaMan, the problem is not the weather. As I have said at the beginning, it is the competition!

          • Sancho says:

            Just to point, my preferred solution would be to copy the Mexicans: two tournaments -one from Feb to May; other from August to November.

            There would be two MLS Cups (May in Northern cities; November, in Southerns), with single-game playoffs.

            June and July would be used for friendlies (games and tournaments) and international matches.

            Total recess in the winter.

          • BamaMan says:

            On competition, I feel like I’ve made a pretty cogent case for why the current schedule actually has MLS competing against much tougher competition (NCAABB, NBA Finals, NHL Finals, MLB Summer Games, NCAAF, and NFL) than they would in an August to May. August and May have no other major sporting championships/beginning of seasons. The time to bring in casual fans is for the beginning and the end of your season. Soccer fans are going to prefer the Euro-style calender. Casual fans would be more likely to give MLS a shot after watching June/July World Cup games in August and would be more likely to tune in to the Championship when there’s no competition. As to an apertura and clausura style-season, it just wouldn’t work in the US. Diehard soccer fans in the US prefer the European model and casual fans just wouldn’t get it. Truthfully, I’m a pretty hardcore soccer fan and I feel like it dilutes the appeal of the Mexican Primera Division.

          • Sancho says:

            The time to bring in casual fans is for the beginning and the end of your season.

            Now, I got your point. Although I still have problem in believing that mid-season would work out this way…

          • BamaMan says:

            Would the mid-season work as well this way? Maybe; maybe not. I think, in terms of TV awareness, the mid-season would struggle with casual fans. But that is every bit as true for the NBA and the NHL. But we struggle mightily to bring in casual fans to MLS games now. But there is no doubt in my mind that it would only increase the appeal of the game to soccer fans in America, who should be our biggest target in the first place. These are the fans that watch the Primera Division or Serie A or La Liga or the EPL or the J-League but turn their noses up at the MLS as is. And those are the fans that will fuel the organic growth of the league.

            The weather wouldn’t be great for a couple of months, but, as the NFL has proven, sometimes they just makes the fans that much more loyal. And you would have the EPL season really heating up which, in my opinion only helps MLS as they would never compete head-to-head because of time difference. But I personally would rather have my best soccer weather at the beginning and end of the season than during the middle. You could play the All-Star game in the Winter Break in domes or warm weather cities.

    • Heimdall says:

      People are going to spend 3.5 hours each on their favorite NCAA and NFL team each day on the weekend. More if they attend. MLS is going to get crowded out especially in December and January. As much as the road to the sweet 16 is my favorite yearly sporting event, it is better for the league to go against the NBA, NHL, and MLB because their seasons are so long, it is okay to tune out. There is few lulls in the NFL season or NCAAF season.

      The league should start a week earlier and end playoffs a week later. If they begin/end beyond that range, there’s serious risk of snowy weather.

  3. nc says:

    Game are routinely moved from their originally scheduled dates in England. Granted most of those are because of CL games, or Cup replays. But this past December a whole slew of games had to be moved because the icy conditions in the UK made it unsafe for spectator travel. That is a weather related delay. So is this deluge. No one complains there. Why is this any different? Play the game midweek. Problem solved.

  4. Heimdall says:

    Does anyone else know how schedules have had to be moved this season because of friendlies besides this game and the Seattle/Philly game?

    The Sounders had to move their game much later because PU was begging to for it so they could schedule RM and the Sounder reluctantly gave an okay for the good of the game in Philadelphia.

    International friendlies are a new deal for the MLS Whitecaps teams so forfeiture is a little harsh, but now that we know that what happened in Vancouver is a possibility, I would give a three point deduction to any postponement of a game due to the oversaturation of water on temporary grass surfaces above a unnatural one to any hosting team, not just Vancouver for any friendly whether SUM sets it up or not.

    Anyway, these international friendlies are getting diminishing returns. Last year, RM/Gals drew over 89k, this season 56,211. Still a good well to go to because LAGs don’t have to share besides the appearance fee.

  5. Jeremy Avery says:

    So because the PNW teams live in a rainy climate and not a dry one (like RSL, LA, etc) we shouldn’t be allowed to schedule lucrative friendlies?

    I understand your complaint, and I am pissed they cancelled the game (I gave away a shift at work to watch it…all for nothing), but it’s not fair to blame Vancouver for this one. This is a league-wide issue and could have happened to any team – including RSL. It was freaky rain, even for Vancouver.

    • Robert says:

      Whitecaps should be relegated after this season but that is besides the point. You could of watched the game if your Mc-franchise didn’t schedule a pointless friendly.

      • Jeremy Avery says:

        My only point is that *ALL* the clubs schedule these pointless friendlies. Vancouver just got caught out with the insane rainfall. And that could have happened to any club.

        • Heimdall says:

          Next year, at least cover the field MLB style when even schoolboys say: Tut tut, it looks like rain.

          • JESCaps says:

            The field was covered by tarps but the rain was so intense that it got under the tarps. Yes, it rains in Vancouver but mostly in the winter, usually the summer months are clear. So the rain was record setting and completely unexpected. As to relegating the Caps, even if we had relegation why relegate the Caps in their first MLS season? We have been very competitive in virtually all of the matches, have had some very bad luck, some refing decisions have gone against us, and we have had a brutal quantity of injuries.

  6. Manuel says:

    Simply solution to all this…GET RID OF THE TURF!! Put in grass and this won’t be such a problem. No player enjoys playing on that hard surface. Lessen these meaningless friendlies and put more emphasis on meaningful tournaments like Champions League and Open Cup.

    • JESCaps says:

      You do understand that Empire Field is a temporary stadium don’t you? We play only two more games there then we move to BC Place stadium.

  7. Charles says:

    We need a pointless, never going to happen rant from a non-MLS fan on how MLS should do something stupid because everyone else does it !

    How about moving the season to the middle of winter where even Seattle would draw 10k !?!?
    How about demoting your one of the biggest money making teams to the minor leagues ?!?!?

    Dang, I posted too late. I am on vacation, cut me some slack, I can only counter the fact that you are morons so much…..I AM ONLY HUMAN !

    • BamaMan says:

      Why would Seattle only draw 10K fans in the winter? The Seahawks sell out every game no matter the weather. I see no reason why Sounders fans wouldn’t be the same way. In fact, most sports fan quite enjoy going to games in cold weather; it’s part of the fun. And there would be plenty of warm weather to play in to, especially during the run to the MLS Cup.

      The areas that would concern me would be the “fair weather” fans in New York and Boston, where attendance already struggles compared to what it should be. That is a long drive without public transport in bad weather, which those stadiums don’t have for soccer games. But then again, the majority of the schedule would be the same as it is now (August, September, October, November, March, April, May). And those fans are unlikely to make those same drives in June/July when there are big international games on.

  8. Ivan says:

    Palying football on artifical turf is miserable! How could Seattle, Portland and Vancouver torture playes and fans alike by playing on artificial turf?
    Awful just awful. GET RID OF ARTIFICIAL TURF NOW!

  9. mavsmith says:

    The weather was not an issue if the decision to put the grass on top of the turf. This is not a result of weather it is the result of poor decisions. 100 degree weather in Dallas is not a fair comparison. Toronto made decisions that resulted in a poor field, period. Absolutely should be a forfeit.

    • JESCaps says:

      I love these people calling for a forfeit. It seems to me that there was another team this season that had to postpone games because they were playing against a foreign team (in what turned out to be a meaningless game). I guess they should have forfeited those games, right?

  10. Dave C says:

    People like Bamaman who say the MLS should play through the winter, on the grounds that EPL does it, are overlooking something – England has far milder winters than the US. I’m an English immigrant in NYC, and I can tell you that New York winters are far far colder, and far snowier than in the UK. And NYC winters are not even particularly harsh compared to many other places in America.

  11. Neil says:

    Any discussions about future weather problems in Vancouver are moot with the move to a stadium with a retractable roof the October 2 game and beyond.

    Plans for a soccer specific stadium are on hold for now.

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