TORONTO – Toronto FC supporters can revel in MLS Cup 2010 even though their team won’t be anywhere near it. They should – they played a big part in bringing the game here.
MLS Commissioner Don Garber lauded the TFC faithful for showing MLS fans how it’s done when he convened with the Toronto soccer media over lunch on Tuesday to provide a state of the league address and discuss MLS Cup, scheduled for Nov. 21 at BMO Field.
"MLS is where it is today because of the success of Toronto FC," said the Commissioner. "I have absolutely no doubt that we would not be in the position we are – which is a respected and credible, growing professional sports league – without the success of TFC."
Garber told the gathered reporters that the rabid backing of supporters groups earned the city the right to be the host of the league's first championship game outside of the US. Since Toronto FC entered the league in 2007, Garber has praised TFC for their success and said the club has taught Seattle how to be a soccer city.
[inline_node:320813]"TFC has helped teach Americans how to be soccer fans," opined Garber. "Everything from how they travel down to away games, to how they cheer, to their passion for their club, to their commitment to the club."
For their efforts, the fans will experience a number of events leading up to the big game. MLS will stage its league awards on Fri., Nov. 19, while Toronto FC will hold a fan event the next day. Supporters will also have a presence as hundreds from cities around the league will gather Sunday morning to attend the MLS Supporters Summit, an element unique to North American pro sports leagues.
Various meetings will also take place involving the league, league partners, MLS Foundation and the US Soccer Federation, making the weekend the “meeting place for the world of North American soccer,” according to Garber.
Weather may be a factor, but the league and Toronto FC parent company Maple Leaf Sports & Entertainment said no contingency plan is in place to move the game in case of snow or freezing temperatures.
Garber also announced on Tuesday an initiative to digitize 16 years of game tapes beginning with the MLS Cup championship games. He then proceeded to address a number of issues, ranging from expansion and player development to TFC’s season-ticket issue to Canadian player quotas.
The latter is particularly significant to the league’s Canadian clubs.
While nothing has been confirmed, a possible rule change could mean Canadian clubs may not be subject to having a set number of Canadians on their roster, something that TFC interim director of soccer Earl Cochrane said Monday was a burden.
This would allow Toronto FC, Vancouver and eventually Montreal to better compete with the US-based clubs on a more even plane.
On expansion, the league has its sights on a second team in New York and is in talks with various potential ownership groups for the league’s 20th expansion franchise.
“Our focus on the 20th expansion team is going in full swing," Garber said. "We’re having discussions with a number of different ownerships groups in New York and hope to continue to make progress in those discussions. We’d like that team to be in the NY metro area. … We hope in the next 12 months to finalize that.”