ST.JOHN’S, Canada—The departure of Toronto FC from the MLS is Back tournament came earlier than the Reds faithful might have hoped for when they crashed out in the round of sixteen some ten days ago.
Since then, speculation surrounding when TFC supporters can expect their side to be back in action has been rampant with several rumours swirling around social media.
League commissioner Don Garber provided some clarity as to when regular season play will indeed resume during a halftime appearance on FS1 in the semifinal match-up between Portland Timbers and the Philadelphia Union on Wednesday night.
"We will get back to our markets. We will be announcing our schedule soon."@MLS commissioner @thesoccerdon confirms plans for a regular season after the #MLSisBack Tournament. pic.twitter.com/h7giOlYhsn— FOX Soccer (@FOXSoccer) August 6, 2020
Expectations are that the league will shift back into a typical regular-season format just weeks after an MLS is Back winner is crowned down in Orlando with a schedule to be ‘announced soon.’
While the plan should allow for 23 of the league’s sides to resume play in their own stadiums as early as mid-August, in some cases even in front of fans, the ongoing closure of the Canadian-American border leaves TFC, Montreal Impact, and the Vancouver Whitecaps in a state of limbo for the time being.
One of the potential means of dealing with travel restrictions is to have each of the three Canadian clubs play six matches among one another between August 22nd and September 13th as per Sam Stejskal and Jeff Reuter of The Athletic.
In other words, Toronto would play both Montreal and Vancouver three times within a three-week span to keep pace with the fixtures the rest of the league will be playing.
What makes things complicated for TFC is the NHL’s takeover of BMO Field as part of their bubble within the Exhibition Place grounds.
Hockey is expected to be in control of BMO Field until at the least the beginning of September when the four remaining NHL teams will shift to Edmonton for the conference finals and Stanley Cup finals.
The two most logical solutions for the Reds in the meantime would be Lamport Stadium across the train tracks in Liberty Village, or perhaps more likely their Downsview training facility. In either case, housing fans should be of no concern as local health authorities will surely prohibit supporters from attending any matches in the near future.
This, of course, would provide only a temporary solution to the problem the border continues to pose for professional sports, with the Blue Jays previously being rejected to use the Rogers Centre before ultimately opting to make Buffalo their makeshift home field for this season.
With suggestions of a ‘second phase’ of the plan likely requiring relocation for the Canadian teams, TFC would play an additional 12 matches between September 16fth and November 8th in the U.S., for a grand total of 23 regular-season games.
All three of the sides north of the border are expected to try and secure a temporary American home venue for the ‘second phase’, with The Athletic’s Sam Stejskal and Paul Tenorio suggesting on their Instagram live show “Allocation Disorder” that Vancouver is exploring Portland as an option, while both Toronto and Montreal are seeking a North-Eastern city as their home away from home this fall.
As of this week, the Reds players themselves weren’t certain of the exact date when they’ll take to the pitch once again but expect it will come within the next two weeks according to Josh Kloke of The Athletic.
Per source, #TFCLive players still have not been told exactly when their first game will be, but are expecting it between August 15-22.— Joshua Kloke (@joshuakloke) August 4, 2020
While the opponent, the venue, and the day to circle on the calendar remain a question mark for the time being, it appears TFC’s much-anticipated return is on the horizon.