TORONTO — With Toronto FC not competing in the CONCACAF Champions League for the first time since 2009, club brass is currently in negotiations with several teams to arrange a summer friendly against a big-name club from abroad.
While there have been unconfirmed reports that Uruguayan club Peñarol would be facing off against the Reds this summer, Paul Beirne, Toronto FC's vice president of business operations, tells MLSsoccer.com that the club is working on a deal that would see TFC face off against a club of a similar stature to previous international opponents Liverpool, River Plate and Real Madrid.
“I had to look up who Peñarol were,” Beirne said. “We are currently talking to a lot of people. We are interested in playing clubs that are of a tier and a geographic relevance that makes sense to the people of Toronto. Of course the people of Toronto are from all over the planet, but there are certain regions of the world that will really resonate here.”
Even with many of the biggest clubs in Europe now regularly crossing the Atlantic to play against MLS clubs as part of their preseason preparations, lining up a marquee match against a top-tier club can still be a complex task.
“There are a thousand moving parts,” Beirne said. “It starts with questions like, ‘Who is coming?’ and, ‘Who is going to be in North America?' and then, ‘How long are they here and what dates are they available?’ Then it is, ‘How much do they want? How do they participate with us? Do you they want to fly in the night before and play a game and then fly out?’ Or do they want to come to the city and get some training in and maybe do some appearance opportunities as well?”
With Toronto now in the midst of its summer schedule, it is expected that any friendly match will be played in late July or early August.
“In all my years of managing the business of TFC, one thing I have learned is that you cannot predict,” Beirne added. “So I wouldn’t want to put a timeline on an announcement. I also don’t want to say 100 percent because we don’t have a firm deal with anybody today, but we are talking to several clubs.”
While Beirne cannot yet confirm that TFC will be able to bring a big-name opponent to Toronto, he does sound fairly certain about where such a match would be played. TFC played their 2009 friendly against Real Madrid at BMO Field, but elected to play last year against Liverpool in the larger confines of the Rogers Centre.
“This year, the dates that TFC are available do not align with the dates that the Rogers Centre is available,” Beirne said. “So I can say with great comfort that this year we won’t be playing at Rogers Centre. It is always our preference to play at our home at BMO Field, but I would never close the door on playing a big match at Rogers Centre.
“That said, it is not on my radar for this year.”