More questions than answers for Canadian teams as MLS releases schedule

Toronto FC's Pablo Piatti leaps into the arms of Toronto FC's Jozy Altidore after Altidore scored a goal as teammates Toronto FC's Jonathan Osorio, left, and Toronto FC's Ayo Akinola, right, celebrate with them during the second half of an MLS soccer match. (Jessica Hill/AP)

Major League Soccer released its full 2021 schedule Wednesday, but there were more questions than answers for the three Canadian teams.

All three are starting the season based out of the U.S., hoping to return north of the border when pandemic-related border restrictions are eased.

Toronto FC and CF Montreal will be based out of Florida -- in Orlando and Fort Lauderdale, respectively -- while the Vancouver Whitecaps play out of Sandy, Utah.

The venue for 16 of Toronto FC's 34 games is listed as TBD.

The Vancouver Whitecaps said the location of their final 13 home games will be announced at a later date.

Montreal listed all 17 of its home matches at Inter Miami CF Stadium while opening the door to returning home if allowed.

"The possibility of playing home games in Montreal will be studied when there will be developments on travelling protocols, in relation with public health and guidelines from different levels of government,'' the club said in a statement.

TFC listed venues -- home and away -- for its first seven games before the first TBD on June 19. Vancouver has locations for its first 11 matches, with the first TBD on July 7.

Toronto is also looking at hosting some games in Tampa. But all three Canadian clubs are looking at all options, perhaps making day trips to games down the line if permitted and the travel makes sense.

The hope is things will change for the better, with a return to home markets the goal.

"The majority of our home games will be after June, so we remain hopeful that we will get to play in front of our fans at B.C. Place once it is safe to do so, as we continue to work closely with the government, health officials and MLS,'' Whitecaps CEO and sporting director Axel Schuster said in a statement.

The league had previously announced dates for the clubs' home openers, fleshing it out Wednesday with the full schedule. The 2021 campaign marks the inaugural season of Austin FC plus the opening of three new soccer stadiums -- FC Cincinnati's West End Stadium (May 16), Austin FC's Q2 Stadium (June 27) and Columbus' New Crew Stadium (July 3).

The 27 clubs will play a 34-game regular season, 17 home and 17 away, with an emphasis on intra-conference regional play. The top seven teams from each conference will qualify for the playoffs.

Toronto finished out the 2020 campaign in East Hartford, Conn., while Montreal played in Harrison, N.J., and Vancouver made Portland a second home.

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