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Toronto FC affiliate rolls into Vaughan
USL Pro squad to play out of Ontario Soccer Centre
Jan. 21, 2015
By Adam Martin-Robbins

It’s taken about four years, but Mayor Maurizio Bevilacqua has finally fulfilled his dream of luring a professional sports team to Vaughan.

Toronto FC II, a newly formed team in the tier-three USL PRO division, will this year play out of a 2,000-seat stadium currently being built at the Ontario Soccer Centre on Martin Grove Rd., south of Hwy. 7.

And the club will serve as a development team for Toronto FC of the tier-one Major League Soccer (MLS) division. The announcement was made during a press conference held at city hall Wednesday morning.

“This, for us, is a great day, a day where professional sports is coming to the city of Vaughan, and it’s worth celebrating,” Bevilacqua said in an interview.

“This is really the culmination of conversations and promotion of the city and making people appreciate the great location that we have, the great community that we have and the great soccer culture that is very much part of our essence here,” he added.

When first elected mayor in 2010, Bevilacqua made it known he was interested in attracting a professional sports team to Vaughan. So he considers this a major victory for the city.

“For me, as mayor, this provides another anchor,” said Bevilacqua, who played for the Toronto Jets of the National Soccer League in the late 1970s.

“It’s very much in keeping with my vision for building a world-class city. Whether it’s a hospital, a professional sports franchise, a post-secondary education (facility), a downtown core, this is all part and parcel of building a world-class city and this is an important piece of the puzzle.”

Toronto FC, owned by Maple Leaf Sports & Entertainment, revealed in November it had acquired the rights to a USL PRO franchise.

TFC head coach Greg Vanney said during Wednesday’s press conference the USL PRO team will play an important role in developing players who can move up the ranks to join the tier-one team.

“For me, this day, I dare say, is as exciting as the past seven days and the announcements that we’ve made,” he said, referring to the high-profile signings of touted American striker Jozy Altidore and Italian star Sebastian Giovinco from Juventus.

“There is a ton of talent in Toronto, the Greater Toronto Area and the Ontario area. And, for me, this day marks their future and a pathway for them to get to the TFC first team. ... They have a path now to get to this first team and it’s much clearer than it ever was,” Vanney added.

Jason Bent, a former assistant coach with the tier-one team, will serve as TFC II’s head coach. He said his main job is to develop players who have the skills and talent to join the first team, but he also hopes to build a winning club.

TFC II will play in the eastern conference of the two-conference USL PRO league, which is expected to feature 26 teams this year including several MLS affiliates such as FC Montreal, Vancouver-based White Caps FC 2 and LA Galaxy II.

The new stadium in Woodbridge that will serve as the club’s home field is being built and funded by the Ontario Soccer Association, which subleases the land where it will sit from the City of Vaughan.

“There is no financial exposure for the city, which makes today’s announcement truly about the community and sports,” Bevilacqua said. “Of course, personally, I know the city will rally behind the team. And it gives us a great opportunity to build upon our community.”

While the stadium will start out with seating for 2,000 fans, there are plans to increase that number to 5,000 within three years.

It is expected construction will be completed in time for TFC II to hit the field for its first home game, slated for July 1.

“We’re really looking forward to showcasing the TFC, showcasing the game from our location to promote our talented pathway,” Ontario Soccer Association president Ron Smale said during the press conference.

In all, TFC II is slated to play 28 regular season games, a dozen of which will be played in Vaughan.

Season tickets for those games are currently selling for $96.

Bevilacqua already snapped up the first four season seats.

“We’re going to do our very best here in the city ... to become the best possible hosts to TFC II,” he said before handing a personal cheque to Toronto FC general manager Tim Bezbatchenko for his tickets.

“Just like Toronto FC believe in us, we believe in them. That’s the way it works here in the city of Vaughan, so here’s the cheque,” Bevilacqua added.

Toronto FC looked at a number of potential host cities in the GTA and beyond before settling on Vaughan as the new home for its USL team, according to Bezbatchenko.

And the mayor’s enthusiasm for the sport helped clinch the deal, he said.

“We looked at Kitchener-Waterloo, Hamilton, other places around Greater Toronto,” he said. “But with the partnership with OSA and the fact that the mayor is committed to soccer, is a big soccer fan - he actually played - was something we felt was the best opportunity for us.”

While Toronto FC II will play in Vaughan, it will train at the Kia Training Grounds at Toronto’s Downsview Park.

“This was a larger project from Toronto FC. This is about player development in the city of Vaughan and in all of Ontario,” Bezbatchenko said.

“We’re looking forward to holding events (at the new stadium) that really go beyond TFC. So, if we have a game at night, perhaps there will be youth games during the day where the whole community can come and watch soccer from the U10 (level) all the way up to the professional level. That was very important for us.”