Are you ready for Toronto FC II?
No, there isn’t going to be a second Toronto FC in Major League Soccer.
Instead, “Toronto FC II” will be the official name of the MLS club’s affiliated team that will begin competing in the USL-Pro League starting in 2015, sources confirmed to Sportsnet.
The MLS outfit will make a public announcement about the USL-Pro team’s name at a Wednesday press conference. TFC will also announce that the USL-Pro side will play its home games at the 3,500-seat stadium currently being built in Vaughan, Ont. If construction goes well, the stadium will open in July and host 12 home games, and is located at the Ontario Soccer Centre in Vaughan.
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The USL Professional Division (commonly known as USL-Pro) is the third tier of the American soccer pyramid below Major League Soccer and the North American Soccer League.
Last November, Toronto FC announced that it has acquired the rights to an USL-Pro franchise, a move heralded by coach Greg Vanney as vital to the MLS club’s long-term future. Why is it so important? The short answer is player development. Essentially, this is a pro farm team for the Reds.
Last season, TFC had a partnership with the Wilmington Hammerheads, an USL-Pro club based in North Carolina. The agreement allowed Toronto to send to Wilmington players on its roster who weren’t being regularly used so they can gain some playing time and stay game fit. Quillan Roberts, Jordan Hamilton and Manny Aparicio were just some of the TFC players who spent time with Wilmington in 2014.
By operating its own USL-Pro team, Toronto will enjoy complete control, and can use the franchise as a tool to develop its youngsters and youth academy products, as well as giving others who aren’t featuring for the senior team some playing time.
“We’ve seen over the last few years that it’s a really difficult jump to go from the youth academy to the first team. This is a necessary and fantastic step to continue to help progress those academy players into the next level before they can make the jump to the senior side,” Vanney told Sportsnet back on November.
He later added: “It’ll help us ensure success for some of our academy players, and it’ll also help motivate some of our young players so that they have a clear understanding of what the pathway into the first team looks like.”
Others MLS teams that own an USL-Pro club include the Montreal Impact, Vancouver Whitecaps, LA Galaxy, Portland Timbers, Real Salt Lake and Seattle Sounders.
Toronto FC II will be coached by former TFC assistant coach Jason Bent.