On Saturday, for the first time in the team’s decade-long history in Major League Soccer, the Portland Timbers will play host to MLS Cup at Providence Park. Tickets to the championship match against New York City FC were in high demand Tuesday when the final 500 available seats went on sale to the general public, but the ticketing process left some fans confused, frustrated or shocked by steep prices on the resale market.
SeatGeek, the ticketing service used by the Timbers, was among the entities affected by an outage of Amazon Web Services, the Timbers said in a statement posted to their Twitter account. Season-ticket holders bought up their allotment of tickets at two different time slots Tuesday morning, and the AWS outage impacted their buying experience along with those of the general public. Fans, who expressed their frustrations on Twitter, faced endless loading screens or an inability to get SeatGeek to work at all.
Mike Selig, a Timbers season-ticket holder since 2011 and longtime fan of the team, has two season tickets at Providence Park and logged on Tuesday morning during the first round of ticket sales slotted exclusively for those who’ve renewed their season tickets. Selig tried to choose four seats under the impression that he and all other season ticket-holders could choose up to four. He continually received error messages and his card kept getting declined.
“I feel the Timbers have done a good job through some challenges on really looking after the season-ticket holders and the fan experience, but I feel the opposite occurred with the sale of tickets to the MLS Cup game,” Selig said. “Everything leading up to it was them giving us this special privilege to go on early and get tickets as a season-ticket holder and get up to four seats. I would’ve liked to get four because my son is coming up from California to see the game.
“I figured we’d wait our turn and fairly get four tickets to the game. It turned into a nightmare. I don’t know who was snapping up what, but all these tickets would be available and you’d go to pay for it and it just wouldn’t work. I ended up getting two seats in a part of the stadium I hadn’t even heard of before, and they were $350 each. I am a dyed in the wool Timbers fan, so I’m not missing this game no matter what, but too many other people either weren’t able to get tickets or had to pay way too much.”
By the time some in the general public made it through the buggy system Tuesday afternoon, all 500 remaining seats were already gone. All that remained when the dust settled were a few hundred seats available on the secondary market, some of which had eye-popping prices in the thousands of dollars per seat.
Timbers president of business Mike Golub said the resale market makes up a “very small percentage” of the overall tickets sold, but also noted that the franchise isn’t in control of every ticket this week, either. MLS controls ticketing for MLS Cup, and the league allocated roughly 70% of the stadium’s capacity for distribution by the Timbers to its season-ticket holders first, then to the general public.
“Unlike the Western Conference finals, which happened here last Saturday, the Timbers don’t control the entire ticket inventory or the pricing,” Golub said. “All season-ticket holders got their seats (for that game) and we put a few thousand out to the general public and they sold like crazy. This event is a league event controlled by Major League Soccer, and as such they take several thousand seats for league officials, national sponsors and the like. The visiting team, NYCFC, gets several thousand tickets as well.”
Although there are minimal seats remaining on SeatGeek out of 25,218 at Providence Park, fans have expressed their dismay with the prices on social media.
As of 3 p.m. Wednesday, available tickets on the resale market on SeatGeek ranged from $550 to as high as $2,500 per seat.
Golub said a large percentage of Timbers fans — particularly those in the Timbers Army — were able to purchase tickets at a relatively affordable price despite the magnitude of the championship game.
“We had to allocate less tickets than we normally have,” Golub said. “We were able to offer 5,000 Timbers Army seats in the first wave at a price we think is really fair of $58. We were really happy about that and those got snatched up quickly.
“We want our fans to be at the game, and that’s why we took such painstaking care to do this as equitably as possible. We knew that regardless of how we went about our sale, we knew there would be a lot of people who want to come to the game who can’t get tickets. We set the policies we set and the limits we set in order to serve as many people as equitably as possible.”
Timbers tickets can still be purchased through the secondary market on SeatGeek, although few remain available and most are upwards of $1,000 each.
In response to the unusually high ticket resale prices, the Timbers Army posted a plea on Twitter on Wednesday afternoon.
“Don’t scalp your fellow supporters,” the Tweet reads. “If you have extras make sure they get to a good home at a fair price. Pay it forward.”
— Ryan Clarke; firstname.lastname@example.org
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