The 2012 MLS season marked the low point for Toronto FC. Winning only five times all year, the Reds finished with a franchise-worst 23 points, sharply adrift as the worst team in the league.
Attendance at BMO Field was down and various supporter groups were disbanding after losing some of the steam that hurled fans north of the border into MLS consciousness when the expansion franchise started play in 2007.
And yet it was during the offseason that followed that supporters Mike Newell, David Pinto, Dylan Doyl and Michelle Doyl decided it was time to up the anti and reaffirm their commitment to the hapless cause. On a cold Wednesday in December, Newell tweeted out a picture of his renewed season tickets with the caption, ‘Kings in the North are born.’
“The soccer was suffering,” says Pat Lecompte, another original member of the vibrant supporters group. “So we decided that we would find a way to make the stands more lively and more fun.”
Pinto insists the band of friends had no grandiose ideas at inception but five years on, Toronto FC are reigning MLS Cup champions and the tight-knit supporters group has almost 150 members.
“The Kings are almost like a township,” says member Jeff kidney.
Spending time with the group, it becomes clear that a sense of family is part of the driving mentality behind ‘Kings.’ They’re a diverse bunch, of all ages and backgrounds, with a welcoming atmosphere, whether packed into section 116 for TFC home games or at the Wheat Sheaf Tavern, Toronto’s oldest bar, the group’s hangout for road games.
“The Kings are a family that you get to choose,” says Kevin Dineen. “It feels like everyone here is a cousin to me.”
‘Kings’ are one of six official groups among the Southend supporters and despite TFC’s struggles this season, it’s safe to say the passion isn’t going away anytime soon.
“Every sports team has fans but you will never find the type of support that you do with soccer.”