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Greg Vanney and Tim Bezbatchenko on the inaugural BMO Champions Cup

Tired of waiting for the MLS Cup Playoffs to resume? The TFC Academy steps up again with a plethora of matches over the next four days!

Toronto FC Academy prematch huddle
TFC Academy takes to the field up at the Kia Training Ground
Adam Krueger

Toronto FC Academy announced last week that they will be hosting a tournament up at the KIA Training Ground from Thursday, November 16 through Sunday, November 19.

Four different age groups will take part, ranging from U-14 to U-20, with representative sides from the TFC Academy, the Canadian Academy of Futbol (CAF), Soccer Academy Alliance Canada (SAAC), and the Ontario Player Development League (OPDL).

“It's an opportunity for us to, at a time of year when there are not a lot of competitions going on up here, to get the champions of SAAC, CAF, OPDL, and ourselves, at various age groups, into a little competition here at the facility that can be meaningful games,” said Greg Vanney on Friday. “It is an opportunity for people to share in our facility, see a little bit about what we do, continue to bring the game and sport together in the GTA.”

“We're trying to raise our level and as best we can help influence and raise the level of the sport and the game in Ontario,” continued Vanney. “This is another opportunity to do that.”

WTR caught up with TFC General Manager Tim Bezbatchenko on Tuesday to dig a little deeper behind on the origins of the concept amongst other things.

“This is the brainchild of Bill Manning,” said Bezbatchenko. “When we talked over the last few months about the competition level of our academy, the biggest challenge is regular competition that challenges our players enough that it prepares them for the professional ranks.”

“There was no competition which pits all the top clubs in Ontario against each other,” observed Bezbatchenko. “We want to become a club that brings people together, in the soccer sense and for the good of the game. It's about the players at the end of the day. If we can get the best competition for ours and the top players in Ontario, [It's] a win.”

“One of the most exciting aspects is that it is a showcase event for the CSA,” continued Bezbatchenko. “Octavio Zambrano will be here, along with his staff, to identify the best players in Ontario for national teams at the youth level and some day the senior level. That's how we're going to get the national team to where it needs to go: the World Cup.”

Something Bezbatchenko sees as TFC's responsibility.

“We will develop the top players,” said Bezbatchenko. “But you also have to have regular events to ID players that were missed along the way. You need these competitions so that when a player does hit his stride, there are people watching and ready to identify.”

This inaugural edition will be the first of many.

“We are [planning to hold it annually],” said Bezbatchenko. “You start it, do a pilot program, see how it goes. This time of year is a little quiet and we have the bubble. There are few indoor facilities in Ontario and around the GTA, so let's put it to good use. See if we can continue to bring the important soccer constituents together in a fun, competitive weekend.”

As well as valuable matches, these four days represent an opportunity to convene the diverse Ontario soccer scene under one umbrella.

“We're in a unique position where people are looking to us for guidance, to set up opportunities for players, coaches, referees, access to our facilities,” explained Bezbatchenko. “We can't always do it, but when there is a synergy between soccer in Ontario [and] the players in our academy, when we can get the best players playing against each other, that raises their level.”

All matches will be open to the public, the full schedule can be found here.

“Or, if we see our players aren't as good as those on other teams that's good. A signal for us that we need to be better,” added Bezbatchenko. “We are not getting all of the best players all over Ontario... yet. But if we can have more of these events, showcase our facilities, our vision for what a professional environment looks like, then hopefully one day we can.”