Toronto FC has been looking for a new home for their top academy sides since confirming that they will not be returning to the Canadian Soccer League following all of the drama that has plagued the league in recent months, including being linked to match fixing, and losing their official sanctioning from the Canadian Soccer Association.
The club has yet to make their plans for the 2013 season public and have been focusing on taking part in preseason tournaments, but there has been plenty of speculation about where the club would find suitable opposition for their top academy sides.
Some suggested that TFCA could follow the same formula that the Montreal Impact will be employing this summer. The Impact also pulled their academy sides out of the CSL and rather than joining any league in Quebec will instead be involved in a large number of friendlies over the course of the summer months against local squads and teams from the USSDA system. It is a less stable option than joining a league for the season but it will ensure that Impact can find the best possible competition for their young players and control the environment that they are playing in.
Toronto does have some options in Ontario as far as possible leagues to join with the main one being the Ontario Soccer League which falls just below the CSL in the soccer pyramid and is considered to be fifth-tier. The league is sanctioned by the Ontario Soccer Association and provides the top amateur men's competition in the province. The league may also benefit from the fact that a number of teams leaving the CSL are looking to join, with the Erin Mills Eagles (home of Mississauga Eagles in CSL) and York Region Shooters also popping up on the team list. If the CSL is not an option then the OSL would be the top league available for Toronto FC's academy teams without having to look for competition south of the border.
On the official list of OSL teams for 2013 Toronto FC is listed as having a team in the Provincial Elite as well as in the Provincial West U21. Being included in those two divisions lines up well with the fact that TFCA is looking for competition for both their senior and their junior squads.
In the Provincial Elite Toronto FC will be up against AC Soccer Diavoli, Caledon FC, GS United, NY Hearts, PCC Mississauga, Sigma FC, Toronto Celtic, Toronto FC, Ulster Thistle, and Woodbridge Strikers. At least one of those names should be familiar to TFC fans as it was Sigma FC that helped to develop both Emery Welshman and Kyle Bekker who Toronto selected in the first round of the 2013 MLS SuperDraft. The other team will be in the Provincial West U21 division along with Bryst FA, Clarkson Sheridan, Dixie Athletics, Erin Mills Eagles, Oakville SC, PCC Supersonics, Sigma FC, Toronto FC, Woodbridge Strikers.
There is no word yet from the club about the official plans for the 2013 season other than confirmation that they will not be taking part in the 2013 CSL season and do have a plan in place to provide a competitive environment for the top academy teams.
Joining the Ontario Soccer League may not be the ideal choice for Toronto FC but it will give their players continued exposure against adult players in a competitive environment even if the standard of play is a bit lower than what they would have encountered in the CSL. Playing in the OSL would provide the team with competition for 2013 and then in 2014 they will hopefully be able to join Ontario League One if it is finally off the ground while also taking full advantage of the chance to have players involved in USL Pro on a reserve team thanks to the partnership between the league and MLS.
It looks like 2013 is going to be a bit of a transition year for Toronto FC's academy sides but it is good to see that they will at least be playing in a stable environment and getting regular competitive games this summer. Hopefully the club will provide an update on the plans for the academy at some point in the near future as they work to continue to find top competition for some of the best young players in Ontario.