CF Montreal will 'host' Toronto FC in Fort Lauderdale, Fla., on April 17 to kick off its 2021 Major League Soccer season while the Vancouver Whitecaps entertain the Portland Timbers the next day in Sandy, Utah.
The three Canadian MLS teams, who each played just four league games in their home markets last year due to pandemic-related border restrictions. are officially on the road again.
CF Montreal, under new coach Wilfried Nancy, will play out of Fort Lauderdale, Fla., using Inter Miami's training centre and stadium.
Toronto, with new coach Chris Armas at the helm, will call Orlando its pandemic home away from home while Vancouver will be sharing Real Salt Lake's facilities.
All three hope their stay in the U.S. is short, but it will depend on COVID-19 and their local government and health authorities.
"Rest assured, our main objective is to play as many of our home games in Vancouver as possible," Whitecaps CEO and sporting director Axel Schuster said in a statement. "We're working very closely with the league and public health officials and look forward to a time when our fans can safely attend matches at B.C. Place once again."
Toronto president Bill Manning echoed that message
“Obviously, we can’t wait to return to play again in front of our fans at BMO Field, but we are grateful to the Orlando City SC organization for assisting us during this difficult time," he said.
Montreal relocated to Harrison, N.J., last year while Vancouver finished the season playing out of Portland. Toronto was based out of East Hartford, Conn.
On Wednesday, the league announced the home opener dates for all 27 clubs. The regular season kicks off April 16 with Houston hosting San Jose and Seattle entertaining Minnesota United.
The good news for Montreal and Toronto? Once they get to Florida, they will have a shorter distance to go to meet up April 17 than they would have had the game been a regular 401 Derby,
The Timbers visit the Whitecaps on April 18 at Rio Tinto Stadium.
Vancouver will then travel to Orlando to face Toronto in TFC's 'home opener' at Orlando's Exploria Stadium on April 24.
The rest of the regular-season calendar will be announced at a later date by MLS.
Expansion Austin FC will open its MLS account at Los Angeles FC on April 17. Austin will open its Q2 Stadium on June 19 against the San Jose Earthquakes.
The 2021 season will also see the opening of FC Cincinnati's West End Stadium on May 16 with Inter Miami the visitors. Defending champions Columbus Crew SC will open its new downtown stadium this summer.
Former Toronto FC coach Greg Vanney will make his debut with the Los Angeles Galaxy at Inter Miami on April 18.
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This report by The Canadian Press was first published March 10, 2021.
Neil Davidson, The Canadian Press