Homestand Sports & the Future of Toronto FC

Photo credit to Mathew Tsang / Twitter: @MathewTsang

Last week, I had the opportunity to attend Homestand Sports Footy Talks at Rivoli in Toronto. First and foremost, the event was a testament to how much the sport of soccer has grown in the city in recent times. But more specifically, it showcased the passion fans have for their own Reds.

It was a packed house, with TFC scarfs, hats and jerseys dawning nearly every individual in the building. Chants, yells, and applause filled the room every time a sentence started with a Gio, Jozy or Bradley. The night featured a great panel discussion which included John Molinaro, Chief Soccer Reporter at Sportsnet; Laura Armstrong, Beat Sports Reporter for the Toronto Star; Joshua Kloke, Writer for The Athletic Toronto; and Gareth Wheeler, Host with TSN Radio.

The topics of discussion primarily surrounded TFC, and what the future looks like for the team. Here are my key takeaways:

  • The team doesn’t need any major tweaking. With a $1.2m increase in TAM (Targeted Allocation Money), they can add any pieces they need to fill depth holes created by the loss of Raheem Edwards in the Expansion Draft, and those whose options were declined including the likes of Cooper, Cheyrou and Endoh.
  • While the team and the sport continue to grow in the Toronto, nobody believes TFC has leapfrogged any of the major three pro sports teams in terms of fan base numbers. They have however, firmly cemented themselves as the fourth most popular sports franchise in the city, and that is something they should be proud of given where it came from.
  • While they may be fourth from a quantity perspective, quality has them top three. The fanbase is both passionate and educated. You ask a TFC fan to name the starting 11 and they’ll rifle off the academy team for a laugh just because they can. You ask a Jays “fan” to name three positions in baseball, and they struggle to get past pitcher and catcher.
  • The fanbase has to embrace who they are, and the culture they’ve created not only within the walls of BMO Field, but across Liberty Village, and the whole city. Canada isn’t England or Brazil, and that’s not a bad thing. It’s about watching quality football in a safe, passionate environment, and minimizing conflict – whether it be with other teams, fans, or the Argos.
  • There has been plenty of chatter surrounding Greg Vanney’s future. The bottom line is that he’s only won one MLS Cup with this team and has a lot more to prove. With the US Men’s National Team in shambles, a new leader is on the horizon, and there is no doubt he’s going to be one of their leading candidates for the role. But why would he want to go?
  • Heading into CONCACAF Champions League, TFC will be the greatest team MLS has ever put forward. They give North America the best chance they’ve ever had to end Mexico’s 12-year reign at the top. The new tournament format for 2018 certainly helps as well. With the draw being released on Monday, December 18th at 7 PM, TFC will have a good idea of what their path to the final looks like next week.

From the depths of hell, to the top, this team has accomplished more on and off the pitch than anyone could have expected. And while it was nice to ride the high of an MLS Cup victory for a few days, it’s back to work for the front office with roster moves and preparations for Champions League just two months away.

Chris Dunne is Business Development Manager for Elemental, a full-service advertising agency based in Toronto. He’s also an active volunteer with AMA – Toronto, Young Adult Cancer Canada, Toronto Region Board of Trade, Conservation Corps of NL, and Big Brothers Big Sister. One of Marketing Magazine’s 2015 Top 30U30 and 2015 St. John’s Rotary Young Professional of the Year.

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