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Toronto FC re-sign Ayo Akinola to a new contract using the U-22 initiative

Akinola has signed a new deal with Toronto through 2024 with an option for 2025.

MLS: Toronto FC at New England Revolution Paul Rutherford-USA TODAY Sports

TORONTO, Canada—Ayo Akinola received a nice birthday present on Thursday as Toronto FC officially announced that they have signed the Canadian striker to a new deal that will run through the 2024 season with an option for 2025. The 22-year-old forward was out of contract and could have signed with several clubs overseas that showed interest.

Akinola, 22, was signed as the club’s first U-22 initiative signing, meaning he may earn up to $200,000 more than the Maximum Salary Budget Charge in any given year ($612,500 in 2021) but only $200,000 will be charged to the team’s salary budget.

“We are thrilled as a club to have signed Ayo as part of the league’s new Under-22 initiative,” said Toronto FC President Bill Manning in a press release. “Over the last few years, watching Ayo grow as a player and a person has been extremely gratifying to the many staff who have worked with him along our player pathway. We have seen glimpses the last two seasons of just how impactful Ayo can be and it’s exciting to think of what’s still to come for him as a TFC player.”

Akinola, who emerged as a pure striker in 2020, when he led Major League Soccer in goals per 90. He joined the club as a homegrown player ahead of the 2018 campaign, making a combined 46 appearances in all competitions, notching 14 goals (including a team-high nine goals in 15 appearances in 2020).

“I am very honoured and happy to sign a new contract with Toronto FC,” said Akinola. “Nothing makes me happier than knowing that I’ll be able to play in front of my family, friends and TFC fans at BMO Field. My goal is to recover from this injury, get back on the field and help our team win games and compete for titles.

The Brampton, Ontario native is currently recovering from season-ending knee surgery after sustaining the injury while on national team duty with Canada last summer. According to TSN’s Matthew Scianniti, Akinola is aiming for a potential April/May return to action.

Akinola chose to commit his future to Canada on June 30, 2021 following a well-publicized battle for his services between the US and John Herdman’s squad.

“Ayo has great starting points for a young attacker,” said Toronto FC Head Coach and Sporting Director Bob Bradley. “He moves well and puts himself in position to score goals. He has the ability to finish in a number of different ways. We are excited to continue working with him and pushing him to become even better.”

With three designated players on their roster, Toronto FC is only allowed to utilize the U-22 initiative on one player, however, with Carlos Salcedo expected to join the Reds as a designated player in the coming days, there is a faint possibility that his deal will allow to the team to utilize two additional under-22 spots depending on the Mexican international’s salary budget hit.

In other news, per multiple sources, Toronto FC will be moving on from defender Kemar Lawrence after just one season. It is unclear at this time whether that will be via trade or transfer out of MLS.