The Philadelphia Union will host Lionel Messi and Inter Miami in the semifinal of the 2023 Leagues Cup tournament. On the line is a spot in the Final, which Philly would host should they win, and also a spot in the newly rebranded 2024 Concacaf Champions Cup! This could be the biggest game of the year, and Philadelphia enacted some interesting tactics to sell tickets for this monumental match.
The Philadelphia Union vs Messi Leagues Cup Ticket Tactics
The arrival of Lionel Messi to Inter Miami has sparked debate over what opposing teams should do to capitalize on one of, if not the greatest, players ever coming to their market. The new tournament, Leagues Cup, has shown a few different avenues.
The first is what happened in Messi’s first away match which was at FC Dallas. Dallas allowed Leagues Cup to raise their ticket prices to crazy heights. The average ticket price for a Dallas match had been $45; the Messi average there was $864, that’s a 1,820% increase. On top of this, Dallas did not put their supporters ahead of this cash grab, and many of their supporters were priced out.
Tickets went on sale all at once and sold out in 10 minutes. The outrage was felt around the MLS community. In the match itself, Dallas was up two goals, but let it slip late (the crowd being mostly pro-Messi probably had something to do with this) and lost on PKs.
The second away game for Messi is coming here to Chester, PA. and there’s a lot riding on the match for both the Union and Miami. Because of this, and because of some good foresight by Union fan services, Philadelphia deployed tactics to partially negate what happened in Dallas. Let’s look at what the Union did to try to avoid an away game in their home stadium.
Before the Semis: choosing to opt out?
As the MLS season was preparing to put their season on hold to play in this first-ever midseason tournament Union fan services sent out emails to their season ticket members telling them that their first Leagues Cup group stage match was free. On top of that, season ticket members wouldn’t have to lift a finger should they want to go to more Leagues Cup matches. All season ticket members would have their season ticket seat reserved for the entire tournament (for all home matches in the tournament) at a discounted price point should they not opt out before the second match of the group stage.
For context, a season ticket price for a spot in the River End supporters section was priced at $25.50 per match. Knowing that the first match was free, if the Union was able to advance through this tournament and play all of the matches at home they’d play six matches in which fans would have to pay; Group stage 2, Round of 32, Round of 16, Quarterfinal, Semifinal, and Final/3rd place match. That’s a total of $153 for the entire tournament.
All in all, that seems like a great deal, and it’s something that is coming to fruition. Fans that had season tickets and were either not feeling this new tournament, or couldn’t make it down to many of the games which were mostly on weeknights, had to manually opt-out. If they didn’t they would be charged for every game Philly would play at home in the 2023 Leagues Cup.
Obviously, there are season ticket members in other sections of the stadium that are much more expensive than the River End. Season ticket members who chose to opt out from their expensive seats at this unfamiliar tournament may have made sense at the time, but now, some of those fans are kicking themselves when they look at possibly coming to the semifinal match.
Choosing to opt in = affordable tickets for the semifinal
As the Union progressed, barely, through the Leagues Cup knockout rounds and Inter Miami continued to win, the two teams looked to be on a collision course in Chester PA. As Philly fans saw what happened in Dallas, they were worried that even if they opted-in that they would be price gouged when Messi stepped on the pitch.
Union fan services need to be shown a lot of credit, they did not price gouge their fans who chose to opt in for this tournament. Using that River End price as a template again, fans who opted in for their River End seat will pay $25.50 for that seat to see their club take on Messi in a huge semifinal match. That was not the case when Messi went to Dallas, and shows the Union’s commitment to their fans who committed to this tournament.
Now that we have seen this tactic from Union fan services, we know that some fans who are at matches no matter what will bring the Philly atmosphere. However, the rest of the ticket-buying process for this match brought drama and price hikes.
A season ticket member presale “discount”
After winning their quarterfinal match against Querétaro, and knowing that Miami beat Charlotte, Union fan services announced the plan for how the ticket-buying process would go. Season ticket members, those who chose to opt in or not, would be given first dibs on semifinal tickets at a discounted price. They would have a presale at noon EST the next day and would be able to purchase four tickets in total. After that, the tickets would go on sale to all at 2 pm EST.
As season ticket members prepared at noon to get into the system to buy tickets, they knew they would have eight minutes to get their tickets. However, when fans got into the ticket-buying portal, they found out that their discount was on a crazily price-hiked ticket. Here’s a look at the Season ticket discounted price map vs a price map for the club’s MLS home match against New York Red Bulls:
The increase is obviously huge here. Going from a $43 dollar ticket to a $195 ticket in the supporters’ section is a steep increase. Asking people to pay $152 more dollars per ticket at the behest of Leagues Cup is crazy, but it is still less than what Dallas did. That price hike for the River End alone is $1 less than what Union fans who opted-in will pay for the entire tournament.
It sucks… there’s nothing else to say about that. However, it’s not the cash grab from the club, it’s Leagues Cup, which is rumored to get 50% of all ticket proceeds at the tournament. while this hike was high even with a discount, the price hike for the general public was even higher.
Sold out in 7 minutes
At 2 pm EST yesterday tickets went on sale to the general public, and they sold out in just seven minutes. An interesting caveat to this though was that the public had to follow the Union’s social pages on Twitter and Facebook in order to get into the ticket portal; that’s one way to drive up their social media. The cheapest ticket, a standing-room-only ticket, was being sold for $225! For context again, a standing-room-only ticket for Philly’s rivalry match against Red Bulls on Labor Day weekend is going for $35. That’s an upsurge of $130, and you don’t even get a seat for that price.
It is a shame that Leagues Cup is doing things like this, but what else would you expect from a tournament that is a clear money grab between two leagues in the middle of a season? This again shows how good Union fan services are as they allowed their loyal fans the opportunity to pay a fraction of these prices, and even found a way to get them a discounted “Leagues Cup” price if they didn’t opt into the tournament. Here’s a look at the full breakdown of tickets for Tuesday’s semifinal:
If you’re wondering why Leagues Cup is really doing this look no further than the person pointing up toward this paragraph, and the pricing structure below. Messi has an incredible draw and Leagues Cup is banking on that draw to pay stupid prices to see the GOAT. It’s working, unfortunately.
What will we see on Tuesday night?
Now that everything has been broken down, and the match is officially sold out, it’s time to speculate on what Subaru Park will look like on Tuesday night. We know that Union fans that opted into their season tickets will have a hot-commodity ticket sitting in their mobile wallets that they could make a huge profit on.
Union “fans” are already posting their tickets to Seatgeek for over $400 a pop. Will this mean that Subaru Park is going to be a pro-Messi crowd like Dallas was a few weeks ago? It will be hard to tell until the night of. However, we have seen an example of the Union playing in a high-stakes semifinal at home that was not a home match.
In 2021 Philly played a Concacaf Champions League Semifinal second leg at home against Club América. That night it seemed the crowd was 60/40 in favor of América. Will this time be different? Will the Union fans be in the majority this time thanks to their fans services doing all they can to make sure their fans are the ones with their butts in the seats? Either way, the match on the field should be a great contest between two great teams!
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Mandatory Credit: Philadelphia Union, AP Photo/Lynne Sladky, & AP Photo/Rebecca Blackwell.