TORONTO, Canada—Mark your calendars!
Toronto FC announced today that the club will open the 2021 MLS season with the 401 Derby on April 17 against the newly-rebranded CF Montreal in Fort Lauderdale, Florida at Inter Miami CF Stadium. The game will be broadcast on CTV/TSN with kickoff scheduled for 2 pm EST.
The last time these two teams met down in Florida was back during the MLS is Back Tournament in July, a 4-3 win for Toronto FC in a memorable 401 Derby. On that day, Ayo Akinola burst onto the scenes to net the first-ever hat-trick between the two sides, propelling the Reds to victory.
One week after exchanging pleasantries with Montreal, Toronto FC will host its 2021 home opener on April 24 out of Exploria Stadium in Orlando, Florida—the home of fellow MLS side Orlando City SC. Waking the Red first reported this as a possibility back in February.
“We’d like to thank Orlando City SC for welcoming us to Exploria Stadium for what will serve as our home opener,” said Toronto FC President Bill Manning in a press release. “Obviously, we can’t wait to return to play again in front of our fans at BMO Field, but we are grateful to the Orlando City SC organization for assisting us during this difficult time. Our team will be excited to play on a beautiful surface in a state of the art stadium in downtown Orlando.”
Orlando City CEO Alex Leitão also chimed in:
“We’re very happy to be able to help and open the doors to our stadium for our friends from Toronto and welcome them to the City Beautiful. As we have seen over the past year, Exploria Stadium has become a prime destination for safe and exciting soccer, and we are honored that another one of the league’s top teams will be able to call our facility home during this unprecedented time.”
Exploria Stadium has played host to a number of events recently, most notably the SheBelieves Cup last month. It is also home to Orlando City SC and NWSL side Orlando Pride.
Toronto FC will continue to train and use the facilities at the Omni Resort at ChampionsGate in Orlando for training and depending on the MLS schedule dates, could still play their home matches in both Orlando and Tampa. Of course, the length of TFC’s stay in Florida will be contingent upon health and safety regulations as borders re-open in Canada.
TFC fans will get a good look at the 2021 Reds before April 17’s season-opener as the team is slated to play the Canadian Championship against Forge FC (hopefully) later this month, with the winner of that game advancing to the CONCACAF Champions League, where they’ll face off against Liga MX side Club Leon on April 7 down in Mexico.
Training is currently at a halt back home after the team uncovered multiple positive COVID-19 cases earlier this week, while Forge FC have yet to receive permission from government officials to begin training.
Another tidbit worthy of mention is the status of Toronto FC II. As reported by Mitchell Tierney last month, expect Toronto FC II to be based nearby. TFCII did not participate in the 2020 USL League One campaign due to COVID-19 travel restrictions. Waking the Red believes they will be back this upcoming season, potentially calling multiple locations in the United States home.