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Red Bulletin: Toronto FC may need affiliate to join Canadian Premier League

It has been suggested the new division will not include the reserve teams of Canada’s MLS clubs.

MLS: FC Dallas at Toronto FC Nick Turchiaro-USA TODAY Sports

The Red Bulletin is Waking the Red’s morning update on Toronto FC, wider MLS talking points and more. Related and unrelated chat below the line is welcome.

Slowly but surely, more and more information about a prospective Canadian Premier League is leaking out into the public domain.

On Thursday, Kurt Larson of the Sun confirmed that Toronto FC remain confident of being part of the new division. A couple of hours later, however, Anthony Totera countered that the CPL will not accept the reserve teams of Canada’s MLS clubs.

If their information is correct (and both are well-connected), that would mean TFC forming some kind of affiliate team if they are to have a hand in the CPL.

That makes sense. While a large part of the CPL’s existence will be developmental in that it will create new opportunities for Canadian players to play in a professional environment, it will not be sustainable without the kind of competitive integrity that creates club identities and attracts fans.

There are, of course, several ‘B’ teams - including TFC II - in the United Soccer League, including the New York Red Bulls II side that will take on the Swope Park Rangers in this year’s USL Cup final. Those teams tend to struggle to retain crowds, but that is less of a problem for the USL given the size of the league and the number of strong markets already in it. The CPL will not have that luxury and losing Toronto, Vancouver and Montreal (only the Whitecaps’ affiliate cracked four figures for average attendance this season) as markets for potential new clubs to ‘B’ teams would be an immediate setback.

At the same time, MLSE’s involvement and a link to TFC would provide a potential Toronto club with a stable financial footing and quality facilities. The American Hockey League’s Toronto Marlies are a good model in this regard, attracting over 6,000 fans on average last season to watch a team that was youthful in its composition but serious about winning, and willing to sign veteran players to support and complement the Maple Leafs of the future.

Fundamentally, it will be to MLSE and Toronto FC’s benefit if the CPL thrives. There is no threat in the near future of a Canadian league challenging MLS, and TFC will remain the city’s premier club. A vital part of their continued success, however, is the development of homegrown players, and the creation of a competitive league in which young Canadians are able to play professional football is only good news in that regard. Holding out for all the ‘B’ team privileges and flexibility they currently have with TFC II would be cutting off their nose to spite their face and just does not make sense.

Working out a role for TFC in the CPL would be good for the club, the league and the national game. Let’s hope things are that simple in practice.

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