Toronto FC will open the 2021 regular season in Florida due to pandemic-related travel restrictions.
Tampa has been mentioned as a possible home. The MLS club also has ties to Orlando, having held training camp there in the past.
“We are preparing to open the MLS regular season in Florida, just finalizing our location,” team president Bill Manning said in a text to The Canadian Press.
“Reality is we are preparing to open in Florida as it seems unrealistic we’ll be able to host at home in April. If the government opens things up for us, we would immediately pivot back to BMO [Field] but for now we’re preparing to start down south.”
The regular season is scheduled to kick off April 17.
TFC won’t be the only Toronto team in Florida. The Raptors are set to play the entire NBA season in Tampa while the Blue Jays announced this week they will play their first two homestands of the season in their spring-training home of Dunedin, just west of Tampa.
The Jays will review the situation after that, with a return to Buffalo, N.Y. (where they played most of their home games in 2020) a possible next step if coming back to Toronto remains out of the question.
TFC opened camp under the bubble Wednesday at its north Toronto training centre. The league granted TFC permission to start early to prepare for the Canadian Championship final against Hamilton’s Forge FC. The date for that matchup has yet to be announced.
The winner will advance to play Mexico’s Club Leon on April 7 in the first leg of a round-of-16 series in the Scotiabank CONCACAF Champions League, CONCACAF’s flagship club competition.
TFC played just four games at BMO Field last year, finishing out the season in East Hartford, Conn. Pandemic-related border restrictions also forced Vancouver and Montreal to move, to Portland and Harrison, N.J, respectively.