For several losing seasons one of the few things that Toronto FC fans could actually be proud of was the play of the club's homegrown players. The team was giving local talent a shot in the first team and though several have already come and gone a few have managed to make a name for themselves at this level.
Now, MLS has announced a game to showcase these players. During the events of All Star weekend there will now be another game, this one featuring the best home grown players the league has to offer. In an official release the league announced a partnership with Chipotle Mexican Grill that will bring fans discounts on their Mexican food leading up to First Kick as well as the company being the title sponsor for the Chipotle MLS Homegrown Game.
Throughout the 2014 season, Chipotle will work with MLS and the 12 clubs by executing unique promotions and activations to reach MLS fans across the country. Additionally, during the AT&T MLS All-Star Week in August, Chipotle will sponsor the inaugural Chipotle MLS Homegrown Game featuring the nation's top Homegrown players from MLS Club rosters. Homegrown players from across the league will be chosen by MLS to participate in the game. Details on how MLS fans will be able to watch the game will be released at a later date.
"Chipotle is an incredible brand and has truly embraced MLS' aspirational position for millions of youth soccer players," said David Wright, senior vice president of global sponsorship for MLS. "We love the idea of the Chipotle MLS Homegrown Game and we look forward to Chipotle playing an important role in continuing to grow the sport of soccer in this country for years to come."
The game, if done right, could become the most exciting element of the All-Star week. With the main game often proving to be a dud with the MLS squad struggling to get anything going against a team that is clearly in preseason form giving the league's young players a chance to shine might just make the event enjoyable.
From a Toronto FC perspective the announcement of a home grown deal is exciting since it could open the door for a number of the club's players to get the call. Doneil Henry and Ashtone Morgan could both be in the mix for invites to the game this summer and that number will hopefully grow down the road as the likes of Jordan Hamilton, Manny Aparicio, and Quillan Roberts develop.
This game may even be more exciting to TFC fans because of how strongly many fans have become attached to the homegrown players at the club. When the team was giving the fans so little to be proud of it was easy to be proud of the local talent that was making a real contribution on the field.
In recent years a game like this would be the only real chance for a TFC player to be included in the events of All-Star week. That could change this year though with TFC having a couple of big name players who should certainly attract votes if they are performing up to expectations.
The deal between the club and the league seems to be focused on the US, like most things in MLS, as Canadian fans won't be getting the buy-one-get-one deal in the lead-up to their team's home opener. We will get to see Canadians in the Home Grown Player game. Hopefully MLS allows fans to vote and we can stuff the ballot box for our local favourites like Henry and Morgan.