Major League Soccer (MLS) has announced that its three Canadian clubs will host all remaining regular season and postseason home matches in Canada after receiving a National Interest Exemption for cross-border games during COVID-19.

Earlier this month, Toronto FC and CF Montreal were given the green light to play home matches at their own stadiums for the first time since September 2020. The two teams have already played games back at BMO Field and Stade Saputo, but this authorisation was due to expire at the end of August.

The League has now said the Public Health Agency of Canada and the Minister of Immigration have approved a National Interest Exemption that outlines stringent health and safety protocols allowing for all MLS players to participate in cross-border matches.

MLS added yesterday (Thursday): “Included in the National Interest Exemption requirements, all traveling players and staff will continue to undertake COVID-19 molecular testing prior to, and upon arrival into Canada, regardless of their vaccination status.

“Those individuals who are partially vaccinated, or are unvaccinated, will be required to observe a modified quarantine. Upon receipt of a negative COVID-19 test, these individuals may participate in work activities only, including trainings and games, and are otherwise prohibited from attending other functions or places through the remainder of a 14-day quarantine period, or until they leave the country.”

During the current temporary window, the Vancouver Whitecaps, MLS’s third Canadian team, are playing ‘home’ matches at Rio Tinto Stadium in Utah. Scheduling issues with B.C. Place Stadium have delayed the Whitecaps’ return home, but the club confirmed yesterday that following this Saturday’s match versus Minnesota United FC in Utah, it will play nine of the final 15 regular season matches at B.C. Place, starting on August 21 against Los Angeles FC.

The three teams finished last season, and started this campaign, south of the border due to travel restrictions between the US and Canada. Toronto and Montreal based themselves in Florida, in Orlando and Fort Lauderdale, respectively.

Attendances at BMO Field and Stade Saputo are currently capped at 15,000, with the Whitecaps’ first three games back at B.C. Place (pictured) set to be limited to just over 13,000 fans.

Image: ethan mabunay on Unsplash