Reason to Love Toronto: because MLSE launched a soccer academy

Reason to Love Toronto: because MLSE launched a soccer academy

Reason to Love Toronto
Members of the under-13 class at the newly unveiled TFC Academy at Downsview Park (Image: Raina and Wilson) 

Why can’t a city full of diehard soccer fans turn out more world-class players? One reason is that until recently our best young players had to leave the country to go pro. Thankfully that changed when MLSE launched a European-style training academy to supply their soccer franchise, Toronto FC, with a steady stream of recruits plucked from the GTA’s myriad clubs. This summer, the academy moves into its permanent home—a brand new $21-million facility at Downsview Park that will be the envy of every soccer club on the continent. The complex features four pristine fields—three grass, one artificial—a 40,000-square-foot clubhouse, a fitness centre, meeting rooms, cushy locker rooms and a video analysis theatre. Toronto FC can sign the most promising senior players (academy kids don’t count against the team’s salary limit) or sell them to a competitor. Of course, MLSE has a well-earned reputation for filling top-level sports complexes with middling talent, so the important question is: are the kids any good? Thomas Rongen, the academy’s director, says yes. He’s a product of the illustrious Ajax Football Club (Amsterdam, not Durham Region) and a former coach of the U.S. under-20 team. “There’s at least one or two future $10-million players over there,” he said recently, nodding confidently toward the kids. For the struggling TFC and its long-suffering fans, the future can’t come soon enough.