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(Trent Nelson | The Salt Lake Tribune) Real Salt Lake fans await the entrance of their team as RSL faces the Portland Timbers, MLS soccer on Sunday in Portland.
Ticket troubles plague MLS Cup-hungry RSL fans
First Published Nov 27 2013 10:38 am • Last Updated Nov 27 2013 06:32 pm

Soccer’s unpredictable nature has been known to leave fans distraught but not usually before kickoff.

An online uproar has followed Ticketmaster’s announcement that they’ve invalidated all tickets bought using a leaked presale code for RSL’s Dec. 7 MLS Cup showdown with Sporting Kansas City.

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The "13STMCUP" code was intended for release to Sporting KC season ticket holders (or "members," hence "STM") Wednesday morning, but it was purportedly shared by a KC fan Tuesday and "spread like wildfire" on social media, according to RSL VP of Communications Trey Fitz-Gerald. At one point, an RSL fan sharing the code was temporarily retweeted by the official @RealSaltLake Twitter handle. RSL notified fans of Ticketmaster’s decision to invalidate the tickets on Facebook by around 11 p.m. Tuesday.

Taylorsville’s Scott Robinson and his two brothers spent $2,100 on plane tickets and hotel reservations and could be left with the same view of the action that they’d have had in their living room. But he’s not giving up just yet.

"This is my sport, this is my team, and if I can go, I’m going to go," Robinson said. He knows it may seem fool­hardy to buy plane tickets on a whim, but he’d scouted prices since Sunday and watched them skyrocket.

Ticketmaster says "13STMCUP" buyers will see a full refund posted to their account within seven to 10 business days.

Even with no mix-ups, the constraints of the 18,500-seat Sporting Park meant there were bound to be a lot of disappointed fans.

"There’s certainly more demand than tickets," said Sam Stejskal, RSL media relations manager. "I think we would have enough demand to probably put 30,000 butts in the seats from just RSL fans alone."

MLS policy dictates an allotment of 1,000 tickets for RSL, which is now — on short notice during a holiday week — trying to distribute them to interested players’ families, coaches’ families, RSL staff and ownership’s family and friends.

Some of the remaining tickets went on sale Wednesday night for $69 each, released online to RSL season ticket holders on a first-come, first-serve basis. According to a Tweet from RSL, they soon will provide further details about another sale for season ticket holders on Tuesday.


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"A lot of our fans aren’t going to be able to go," Stejskal said. He encourages fans to buy tickets on secondary markets like StubHub. "I understand their frustration with that. I’m frustrated with that, and I wish they could all go."

But ultimately, team spokesmen say, this is the reason teams vie for the best regular-season record. Home field is an advantage. Even if 95 percent of the stadium is packed with Sporting Kansas City fans, they may have to turn away some of their own 14,000 season ticket holders.

Fitz-Gerald said if the roles were reversed, RSL would fight fiercely to hold as many tickets as possible for its supporters.

Cidne Christensen, vice president of the Rogue Cavaliers Brigade RSL supporters group, credits the Real front office for communicating with anxious fans during what’s being called #TicketGate. She says that with tickets averaging more than $200 on StubHub, a movement is afoot among RSL fans to resell whatever tickets they can buy to fellow supporters at face value.

For 16 years, the MLS Cup was held at a neutral site. RSL’s last visit to the MLS Cup in 2009 was at a predetermined location in Seattle in a stadium that can hold 66,000 people. The official attendance in the game — which RSL won a shootout against the L.A. Galaxy 5-4 — was 46,011.

Some fans have suggested that future cup finals be held by the host city at larger stadiums — Kansas City’s Arrowhead Stadium seats 76,000 people — but Stejskal says there are drawbacks to that notion.

For one, it’s a logistical nightmare to try to book a new field on two weeks’ notice. And if the cup were held in Utah, RSL would prefer not to play again on the turf at the 45,000-seat Rice-Eccles Stadium at the University of Utah.

Last year it was reported that regular-season champions San Jose Earthquakes were considering hosting the MLS Cup at a high-capacity venue like Stanford Stadium. They didn’t wind up reaching the Cup, but even if they had, the Cardinal’s college football team ended up in the Pac-12 Championship Game the day prior.

Sporting KC will begin public sale of tickets Monday at 9 a.m. RSL expects the game to sell out in minutes.

"If next year they do this, I hope MLS and the member teams agree to a higher number of tickets for the away team," Robinson said. "Maybe 10 percent of the stadium instead of 5. And make the tickets available more than a week before the game."

mpiper@sltrib.com

Twitter: @matthew_piper



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