- Major League Soccer team Toronto FC will begin their 2021 season in Florida.
- Canadian pro sports teams have had a tough go of it lately with strict COVID-19 regulations precluding them from crossing back and forth over the US border.
- The Toronto Raptors have already committed to playing the 2020-2021 NBA season in Florida.
Ever since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic just running and sports league and getting games played has been a logistical nightmare. Even though fans have been largely absent from the sporting scene until very recently, there’s always some new–and unanticipated problem–to deal with.
Canadian teams have had it particularly tough since they’ve got to go back and forth across the US border to compete. With the Canada/US border closed off due to the pandemic that has forced teams to make some tough decision. The NHL had the option of creating a division for the seven Canadian teams in the league. That’s not an option in the other pro sports which simply don’t have enough Canadian teams to make it viable. The NBA and MLB have one each (Toronto) while Major League Soccer has three (Toronto, Montreal, Vancouver).
Toronto FC played only four home games at BMO Field in 2020 before finishing the MLS season in East Hartford, Connecticut. It looks like more of the same this year–the team will begin the 2021 season in Florida, with the specific site yet to be announced. Just given the facility requirements of a pro soccer team the destination will most likely be Tampa or Orlando with Miami also mentioned as an option. In addition, the second tier Toronto FC2 team will also play games in Florida.
The team wasn’t excited at the prospect of returning to Connecticut so Florida should be more to their liking. Another ancillary benefit will be the development of the team’s younger propsects. TFCII did not play in the League One Cup in 2021 due to travel restrictions caused by COVID-19. That left players to scramble in hopes of staying busy with some sent out on loan to international teams and Europe and others remaining with the big club in East Hartford.
The MLS season begins on April 17 and although the hope is that the team can play at home sooner rather than later that is by no means guaranteed as team President Bill Manning explained:
“We are preparing to open the MLS regular season in Florida, just finalizing our location.”
“Reality is we are preparing to open in Florida as it seems unrealistic we’ll be able to host at home in April. If the government opens things up for us, we would immediately pivot back to BMO [Field] but for now we’re preparing to start down south.”
Florida has become a popular destination for other Canadian pro sports teams. The Toronto Raptors recently announced that they’ll spend the entire NBA season at the Amalie Arena, better known as home ice of the NHL Tampa Bay Lightning. The MLB Toronto Blue Jays usually train in Florida but this year they’re planning to play their first two home series of the regular season there. That will take them through Monday, April 26 when they’re scheduled to host the Washington Nationals. That will give them time to assess the probability that they can return to Canada for home games or make other plans. They played last year in Buffalo, NY which is an option as is staying in Florida.