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Toronto FC, CF Montreal to return home this weekend

Major League Soccer teams Toronto FC and CF Montreal have been given the green light to play home matches at their own stadiums for the first time since September 2020.

New public health legislation enacted by the Canadian government on July 5 will mean that Toronto FC will be able to host Orlando City at BMO Field (pictured) on Saturday before welcoming New York Red Bulls to the stadium on July 21. CF Montreal will also host FC Cincinnati at Stade Saputo on July 17.

MLS said the decision has been made in consideration of the substantial time players and staff have spent away from their home markets, and with Canadian fans and media in mind. During this temporary window, the Vancouver Whitecaps, MLS’s third Canadian team, will play ‘home’ matches at Rio Tinto Stadium in Utah as conversations continue with the Canadian government regarding future home matches in the country.

MLS clubs and officials travelling to Canada will be subject to public health protocols required of all individuals entering the country, and only fully vaccinated players and staff are excluded from Canadian quarantine requirements.

Toronto FC will welcome 7,000 fans for the match against Orlando City on Saturday, with the crowd to be made up of frontline healthcare workers, first responders and season seat members. It will mark the team’s first match at BMO Field since last September, and its first in front of fans since March 2020.

Toronto FC’s capacity will increase to 15,000 for the July 21 match against the Red Bulls after Ontario moved to Step 3 of its reopening plan. BMO Field will operate as a cashless venue for the two games.

Toronto FC president Bill Manning said: “The importance of this return home for our team can’t be overstated. It has been a long, hard time on the road due to pandemic protocols and we have greatly missed the energy and support of our fans at BMO Field. Our return to Canada gave the team an incredible boost this week and we look forward to an emotional night at BMO Field with our fans on Saturday.”

CF Montreal, meanwhile, has confirmed that 5,000 fans will attend its match against FC Cincinnati on Saturday, in line with public health guidelines for public activities and outdoor events in Quebec. Tickets will be available exclusively for season ticket members, while the club will also give 350 tickets to frontline workers and their families.

CF Montreal president and chief executive Kevin Gilmore said: “After all this time away, we are truly happy to finally be able to play at home. The past few months have been very difficult for our players and staff, who had to go into exile, but they have shown tremendous resilience.

“Our supporters have also been remarkably patient throughout this period, and we can’t wait to see them at Stade Saputo on Saturday. We’ve been working closely with the league, the two other Canadian clubs and the different government levels to be able to play in Montreal. We hope this is one more step in the right direction towards a full return.”

Image: Abazz/CC BY-SA 4.0/Edited for size