Toronto to host the MLS championship this fall
TORONTO - In its short history, BMO Field has hosted some top-flight soccer events.
There was the FIFA U-20 World Cup in 2007, Major League Soccer's all-star game in 2008 and an appearance last year by powerhouse Spanish club Real Madrid.
The latest addition to the list might be the most ambitious given the timing.
MLS announced Tuesday that the league's championship game -- the MLS Cup -- will be played at Toronto FC's home field on Nov. 21.
With an 8:30 p.m. ET start time, fans at the lakefront stadium will likely need to wear several layers to protect themselves from the chilly winds off Lake Ontario.
A dumping of snow is also a real possibility.
"We've never had to deal with that before," said commissioner Don Garber. "Snow is a different issue than rain. Snow is actually easier to manage than rain. You can play, you can plow the field. If the field gets too flooded, you can't play on it.
"So we've got to hope to get lucky."
New stands are being added to the three-year-old stadium that will boost capacity to 21,800 and natural grass is being installed this month to replace the artificial turf.
Garber said while the possibility of snow makes him a little nervous, he's confident the game will be a success.
"I think we've got to the point where we can get past that," Garber said of the weather. "Up here our fans are going to come out in rain, snow, sleet or sunshine.
"Hopefully we'll have a good day."
Work crews have already started laying down Kentucky bluegrass on the pitch, which is expected to be ready for Toronto FC's home opener April 15 against Philadelphia.
"It wasn't the main factor but I don't think that we could have done it without the installation of grass," Garber said. "If it's cold and wet, that's a bigger challenge on turf than it is on grass. So when they made that commitment and they expanded the stadium, that was a big part of closing the deal."
New York, Los Angeles and Philadelphia were also in the running to host the game, which will be played outside of the United States for the first time. Real Salt Lake defeated Los Angeles in last year's MLS Cup at Qwest Field in Seattle.
The hub of activity and MLS Cup headquarters will be at Maple Leaf Square, a new $500-million development adjacent to the Air Canada Centre.
Garber said while there were many factors that went into the decision, the package that came from the partnership between the city and the team put Toronto over the top.
"All the events that we hope to have over at Maple Leaf Square and the promotional opportunities," Garber said. "And it's good to bring an event like this, for us, up to Canada. We've got big plans in this country."
Vancouver and Portland will join the league as expansion franchises in 2011.
Information regarding MLS Cup ticket sales will be announced at a later date. Toronto FC season ticket holders will have priority.
The chances of local fans cheering on their home team in the big game are slim. Toronto FC has yet to make the playoffs in its three seasons in the league.
"We can dream," said Toronto FC executive vice-president Tom Anselmi. "It'd be great to be in it. But let's make the playoffs first and then just see what happens."
The lack of a winner hasn't stopped Toronto FC fans from coming out. Every home game has been a sellout in the club's brief history.
Notes: Garber was also asked about the possibility of adding more Canadian teams, specifically Montreal and Ottawa. "We are actively engaged with Montreal," he said. "We've got to try to do what we can to close that deal and if that gets launched in 2012, then I think there's an opportunity for other markets." . . . Toronto Mayor David Miller was also on hand for the announcement. . . . Toronto is the ninth city to host the MLS Cup in the league's 15-year history. . . . Over 46,000 fans took in the Real Salt Lake shootout victory in last year's MLS Cup.