Toronto FC begins MLS season with 8 road games

Toronto FC's Sebastian Giovinco. (Chris Young/CP)

One of the worst kept secrets in Major League Soccer became official on Thursday when the league officially unveiled its schedule for the 2016 regular season.

Due to ongoing construction upgrades at BMO Field, Toronto FC will kick off the campaign with eight consecutive road games:

• Sunday, March 6 at New York Red Bulls
• Sunday, March 13 at New York City FC
• Sunday, March 20 at Sporting Kansas City
• Saturday, April 2 at Colorado Rapids
• Saturday, April 9 at New England Revolution
• Saturday, April 16 at D.C. United
• Saturday, April 23 at Montreal Impact
• Sunday, May 1 at Portland Timbers

The Reds’ first home game is slated for May 7 vs. FC Dallas. Their regular-season finale is on Oct. 23 when they host the Chicago Fire.

TFC will face Canadian rivals Montreal Impact on three occasions: in Montreal on April 23 and Oct. 16, and at home on Aug. 27. The Reds will welcome the Vancouver Whitecaps to BMO Field on May 14.

This season marks TFC’s tenth in MLS. The have started each of their previous nine regular seasons with a road game.

Back in November, club president Bill Manning revealed he expected TFC to start the first eight matches of the 2016 season on the road, and he set a goal of eight points for the team during that stretch. That puts a lot of pressure on coach Greg Vanney to succeed coming right out of the gate, but Manning made no apologies for setting that specific benchmark.

“It comes with the job. We all have the pressure. There’s nothing wrong with setting goals,” Manning said at the time.

Toronto began last year with seven consecutive road matches due to the first phase of the BMO Field construction upgrades. The Reds won their season opener in Vancouver, before losing the next four and ending their road swing with two losses.

Montreal opens its 2016 regular season in March 6 away to the Vancouver Whitecaps. The Impact will then play its home opener on March 12 at the Olympic Stadium against New York Red Bulls. After hosting the Columbus Crew at the “Big O” on April 2, Montreal will play the remainder of its home games at Stade Saputo, starting with their April 23 match vs. TFC.

Montreal closes out the regular season away to the New England Revolution on Oct. 23.

After hosting the Impact on opening day, the Whitecaps play on the road on March 12 vs. Sporting Kansas City. Vancouver’s last game is at home on Oct. 23 vs. the Portland Timbers.

Four key dates to keep in mind are March 25 and 29, and Sept. 2 and 6 when Canada’s senior men’s team plays World Cup qualifiers. Both TFC and the Impact have byes in late March, but the Whitecaps play away to the Houston Dynamo on March 26, so they could be missing players due to national team call-ups.

TFC will also have a bye in early September, while the Whitecaps play on Sept. 3 and the Impact are in action on Sept. 7, so they both could be without Canadian players.

Also, MLS will take a break from June 2-18 for the group stage of the Copa America tournament being staged in the United States.