Another year, another set of dates to be circled on the calendar. 2016 promises to be a big year for the World of football, and once again a lot of those events relate to what is happening at Toronto FC. All the big tournaments could have a Toronto FC player, while the club itself will be looking to finally play in some big fixtures of its own.
While not all of the dates are fully set in stone yet, Major League Soccer's release of their 2016 key dates gives a framework against which the rest of the season will be set. Toronto FC won't learn their full MLS Schedule for next season until January 7.
January 14: 2016 MLS SuperDraft
This won't be as big of an event for Toronto FC because, well, they were actually decent last season. Used to drafting higher, Toronto FC will pick 9th in this year's SuperDraft. They also only pick once in the first round after doing so three times last year. They don't have a second round pick in this draft either, after trading theirs to Vancouver for Steven Beitashour, but pick twice in the third round (56th and 59th overall) and twice in the fourth round (80th and 81st).
February 5: Canada Vs. USA Friendly
In what will be a very good test for Canada ahead of their March World Cup qualifiers, the national team will take on CONCACAF's second best team in the United States. The neighbouring rival countries have not met since 2012, and both of those matches ended up in 0-0 draws. As this match is not played during an international window, both teams will mostly be composed of MLS players. Does this mean Jonathan Osorio could finally return to the fold?
February 10-21: CONCACAF Women's Qualifiers for Rio 2016
After the men bowed out after losing a third place game to the United States, the Canadian women will be hoping for a better fate as they try to qualify for Rio 2016. They likely will, but it won't be easy as only two spots are available for CONCACAF teams. They were drawn into an easy group, but will have to use those games to prepare for a must-win semi-final.
MLS Regular Season:
March 6: MLS Opening Weekend
Toronto FC will play in the first match of the 2016 MLS season as they meet the New York Red Bulls at 1:30 PM at Red Bull arena. Coming up against last year's Supporter's Shield winning side will be a difficult early test for Toronto, who have won their opening game the last two seasons. This will also kick off a lengthy road trip for the team, as BMO Field once again undergoes renovations.
March 25-29: Canada vs. Mexico World Cup qualifiers
A truly make or break set of games for the Canadian men's national team should they want to qualify for Russia 2018. After earning four points from their first two games of the semi-final round of qualifying, Canada will likely need at least a point against Mexico to keep that position. Against the best team in CONCACAF Canada will need their best performance in years to pull something like that off, but it isn't impossible.
April 20-27: CONCACAF Champions League Final
There will be no Canadian team in the final this year after the Vancouver Whitecaps bowed out in the group stage. But after Montreal's run to the final last season, an MLS team may feel inspired to go on a run of their own. The competition still has a lot of intrigue as it has set up to be a faceoff between MLS and the Mexican league. All four quarterfinals are Mexican league vs. MLS, with the LA Galaxy, DC United, Real Salt Lake and Seattle Sounders all still involved.
June 3- 26: Copa America Centenario
Canada may not have qualified for the tournament, but Toronto FC supporters will still have plenty of reason to care. With the tournament featuring Central American and South American teams, both Michael Bradley and Jozy Altidore are expected to be on the US roster. This means the club could be missing their two designated players for an extended period of time depending upon how far the United States get, although the league is expected to take a break during this time.
June 10- July 10: Euro 2016
Previous to the past few years this tournament would not really have any relation to Toronto FC or Major League Soccer in general. However, when the 2016 edition of the European Championship kicks off on June 10, several MLS players could be involved. Headlining this group is Toronto's Sebastian Giovinco with Italy, but LA Galaxy's Robbie Keane with Ireland and Montreal Impact's Laurent Ciman with Belgium could also play.
June - July: Amway Canadian Championship
It certainly isn't Toronto FC's primary goal this upcoming season, but its one that they certainly wouldn't mind winning this next year. Toronto lost to the Montreal Impact in the semi-finals of last year's tournament on goal difference, and haven't won the competition since 2012.
August 3-20: Olympic Soccer Tournament
Four years ago the Canadian women's national team made global headlines for their strong display at the 2012 London Olympic tournament, where they won bronze. They will be looking to improve on that unlikely campaign this time around. For Toronto FC, the US men's U-23 team could still qualify, which would possibly mean Alex Bono or Marky Delgado join the side.
September 2-6: Canada vs. El Salvador/Honduras
At the end of the day this is where Canada will find out whether or not they can make the final stage of World Cup qualifying. First, they will have relive a nightmare, travelling down to San Pedro Sula, Honduras where they lost 8-1 during 2014 qualifiers. A win this time around would change everything.
October: MLS Decision Day
While not technically part of the MLS playoffs, the day debuted in 2015 will once again take place this next season. Last year having teams play their final game of the season at once worked perfectly, as the drama and fixtures couldn't have been drawn up any better. This year may not be quite as intriguing but is still likely to at least likely to have reasons to watch.
November: 2016 MLS Playoffs
Doesn't look like there will be much change in the MLS Playoff format for 2016, which is at least a little disappointing. There was hope that the league could figure out a way to make the playoffs quicker so that it built momentum and was fresh in fans minds. That was always going to be a difficult ask, however, especially with international windows.
November 7: CONCACAF World Cup Qualifiers Final Round Begins
By this date Canadian soccer supporters will either be overjoyed or once again underwhelmed. Canada hasn't made it this far in the competition since 1998 World Cup qualifiers and most are expecting they won't once again. But if they make it this far, there is at least a chance of the country qualifying for its first World Cup since 1986.
Early December: 2016 MLS Cup
With the MLS playoffs being at the same time as before, the final will once again go in early December. Toronto FC have never come anywhere close to playing this late in the season, could this be the year?