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Toronto FC may not release players for international duty later this month

Chris Armas suggested earlier this week that TFC players could miss Olympic qualifiers due to ‘a lot of factors.’

Toronto FC players at Canada’s January 2021 camp.
(Canada Soccer/Flickr)

TORONTO, Canada—Toronto FC head coach Chris Armas says there’s ‘a lot of factors’ Toronto FC have to consider before the club releases its players for international duty later this month.

Canada’s U-23 national team will compete in Concacaf men’s Olympic Qualifying starting March 18 in Guadalajara, Mexico, a tournament that will run through to the final on March 30.

Last week, eight Toronto FC players were named to Canada’s 50-man provisional roster, however, with TFC expected to play the Canadian Championship Final against Forge FC some time around March 20, followed by a potential spot in the Concacaf Champions League (CCL) beginning April 6, releasing players for international duty becomes a bit more complicated.

“It’s a lot of factors right now going into it which we have to consider,” Armas told reporters earlier this week. “The overtime. Where is the game played? How many guys are on the roster? There are certain things we need to know. When and where exactly is the game being played? What happens after the Olympics? Those games are done, can those guys come back into our team? Because if we win, we have the CCL and then they might not be able to be with us due to mandatory quarantining.

“There are certain things we need to know before we can definitively say ‘okay we can release these guys.’”

In addition to any rules or regulations that may hinder the chance for a youngster to represent Canada, Armas says that injuries may also play a role in determining which players the club elect to release for the upcoming tournament.

“We have a couple of guys that have battled a few little injuries that could prevent some guys from going, and then internally, other types of injuries,” explained Armas. “If a guy picks up something on the depth chart, it put stress on a certain position, so, there’s a lot of little factors going into it.”

As of now, Waking the Red can confirm that Ayo Akinola, Liam Fraser, Tsubasa Endoh, and Justin Morrow are four TFC players who have recently battled injury.

Armas assures that the team will be in constant communication with Canada Soccer and says that Toronto FC has promised to be ‘very transparent and open’ in the process, factoring in the player ‘and then our club.’

Again, the Canadian Championship Final is expected to take place mid-to-late March, with March 20 being floated around as a potential date. It’s important to note that a minimum of three Canadians will be required to start that match.

In addition to U-23 Olympic Qualifying, Canada’s senior team will kick off FIFA World Cup Qualifiers against Bermuda in Orlando, FL, USA on March 25 followed by a date with the Cayman Islands three days later. With that tournament taking place within the United States—and Toronto FC expected to start the year down in Florida—releasing a handful of players for that competition seems a bit more feasible than the Olympics.

For what it’s worth, in normal circumstances, clubs must release players for international duty on specific dates, or be subject to facing certain penalties. However, amid the global pandemic, FIFA has given clubs the ability to prevent players who may be affected by the regulations from joining up with their countries for that match.

With the likes of 16 year old Jahkeee Marshall-Rutty, 18 year old Jayden Nelson, 18 year old Ralph Priso, and many other young Reds all vying for a spot on Canada’s Olympic roster, this decision could be an important one for the future of TFC and Canada Soccer.

“There’s a bright crop of young players and their services are being requested,” wrapped up Armas. “I don’t have clarity at the moment, I will in another week or so as we get some more information that will help us make a decision.”

Have your say: who would you like to see Toronto FC release to the U-23 Men’s Olympic Qualifying Tournament? Who would you like to see them hold onto? Let us know in the comments!