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International Absences Will be a Major Part of Toronto FC's 2016

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Michael Bradley and Jozy Altidore will miss most of preseason after being called up to the United State's January camp.

Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

In many ways it is a good problem to have: if you want to have top international talent on your team it only makes sense that they would also represent their country internationally. But ever since Toronto FC acquired Michael Bradley ahead of the 2014 season, it was clear that international absences were going to be something that the club would need to overcome.

In a league that rarely breaks for international fixtures, clubs who sign top international and domestic talent do so knowing full well that they will have to lose them for multiple games ever year. In the past this hasn't really been an issue for Toronto FC, they haven't had the quality of players. They also seemed to have sort of agreement with the Canadian men's national team that let them retain players ahead of crucial fixtures.

Last year, however, with the acquisition of US international Jozy Altidore and Italian international Sebastian Giovinco the club saw all three of its designated players being picked to play internationally. This year, as a result of the large number of events on the FIFA international calendar, international absences could be a huge part of Toronto FC's 2016.

It has already begun, as Bradley and Altidore were both called up for the United States January camp, which runs from the 11 to February the 6. In that time the United States will play friendlies against Iceland on January 31 and Canada on February 5.

Should the two Americans stay for the entire camp, which is likely, they will miss most of Toronto FC's preseason which is expected to kick off at the end of January. This would be the second straight year that this has happened as a result of the almost month long American camp.

The preseason absences likely won't end there for Toronto either as Canada also have a camp at the end of January, culminating as aforementioned with the game against the United States on February 5. As the friendly is not during a regular FIFA window the Canadian sides will be made up almost exclusively of MLS players.

That means any number of Quillan Roberts, Ashtone Morgan, Chris Mannella, Will Johnson, Jonathan Osorio (should that situation resolve), Jay Chapman and Jordan Hamilton could be at the camp. As a result Toronto FC's early camp roster could be pretty thin.

While the preseason, and what it means for the form in which the club opens the season is important, where things really start to matter is in March when the season starts. Things get underway for Toronto FC on March 6 against the New York Red Bulls.

Not long after, however, the club will once again lose a healthy mix of those aforementioned Canadian and American players as both teams have World Cup qualifiers. If Toronto are lucky, Jonathan Osorio will stay on the outside looking in of the Canadian setup, but don't count on it if he builds on his success from last season.

It is the summer, perhaps, that will be the biggest question mark for Toronto FC. Namely, early June when the club will find out whether or not they lose Sebastian Giovinco to the Italian national team for Euro 2016. Toronto could get some help with this as the league is expected to take a break for most of June for the Copa America Centenario, something that will be found out when the league releases its schedule tomorrow.

Regardless, however, depending upon how far Italy get in the Euro tournament, Toronto could be missing Giovinco for a large part of July as well. That will mean a similar amount of line juggling to last season, and the club hoping that they can keep up results despite this.

Ultimately, Toronto will be far from alone in this issue. As the league gets a higher quality of players its only natural that a higher percentage of them will be called to play internationally. Either way, how the club are able to deal with these international absences will be incredibly important to their success in 2016.