The Voyageur's Cup is a reported priority for Toronto FC this season. In a recent interview with Sportsnet 590 the Fan's TFC Pitchside Podcast, new TFC President Bill manning declared that he's more concerned with chasing another Canadian Championship instead of more midseason friendlies. This appears to be a smart move for management, appealing to the season ticketholders and an attempt to use an already scheduled game to put a trophy in the cabinet.
But for a tournament that was born from a Canadian passion for the game, how can Toronto expose this tournament to more Canadian fans in the city? One possible option could be a change in venues within Toronto.
While smaller venues would limit revenues made on ticket sales and concessions, a change of scenery could expose fans in other corners of Toronto that haven't travelled to take in TFC games. While Toronto has only moved into bigger venues such as the Rogers Centre, smaller venues have been experimented with in the US Open Cup. In the 2015 Seattle was drawn at home to Cascadia rivals Portland. However instead of hosting the game in the 40,000 seat Century Link Field, the Sounders moved their game with the Timbers to the 4,500 seat Starfire Stadium. Starfire, located in the southern suburb of Seattle, is home to the Sounders' USL counterparts, as well as the NWSL's Seattle Reign.
Despite being a smaller venue, this has worked in favour of the club by guaranteeing the venue to sell out, create a stronger atmosphere, and reducing game day expenses for the club. This has also allowed its brand to grow by bringing the team to different parts of the city and on top of all that, the venue produces wins. Since the Sounders moved to MLS the club has gone an incredible 15-0-1 at Starfire, including 2015 fixture.
If Toronto were to explore this opportunity, there are three possible options for where the team could play within the city limits - all within different corners of Toronto.
If you've missed the view of the CN Tower from BMO Field, I encourage you to take a trip to University of Toronto's Varsity Stadium. Located in the heart of the city on Bloor West, the venue holds 5000 fans and is home to the Varsity Blues CIS teams. Surrounded by the old buildings of U of T and the Royal Ontario Museum, the acoustics would be conducive to a soccer match, the singing of the fans reverberating off the buildings back onto the pitch. The location can be easily reached by foot, bike or TTC and could bring attention to university students among others local to the area.
The two main downsides of Varsity Stadium are the turf field and the track that surrounds the field, separating the team from the fans more than it would at BMO. But if Toronto FC decided to move a game here I trust the fans would make this an intimidating place to play regardless of distance or turf.
Monarch Park Stadium
Often forgotten about in the stadiums of Toronto, Monarch Park stadium is another viable option to host TFC in close quarters. Stationed in the east end of the city north of the Woodbine Beach, Monarch Park is a stadium constructed in the 60s and mainly used by the Toronto District School board. Not new to soccer teams, the stadium has hosted the Ryerson Ram's soccer program and has the capacity to hold 5,000.
A bonus of this location is that it is close to TTC and can be accessed to by the 501 and 506 street cars. Despite the track that surrounds the field this is a venue that would prove to be an intimidating place to play with little space separating the fans from the players.
Ontario Soccer Centre
Not new to Toronto FC fans, the Ontario Soccer Centre is the home field of TFC II. While the smallest of the stadiums listed, the 2,000 seat stadium would be best leveraged to bring attention to Toronto FC's development side through the Voyageurs Cup. Located in Vaughn, giving a game to this venue could encourage those local to see a TFC II game and keep coming back.
Of the facilities listed this is certainly the top of the line with grass fields and FIFA certification for professional play. If Toronto FC was to organize a game here it would be wise to do a double header, encouraging fans to see both TFC teams play while giving players of TFC II first team supporters treatment.