With the start of the 2022 MLS regular season just six weeks away, it’s time to start readying for the campaign ahead.

Here, in chronological order, are ten of the most highly anticipated matches on the schedule for Toronto FC.

February 26 at FC Dallas

TFC will begin the season away to FC Dallas at the end of February. Bob Bradley’s first match at the helm, opening day is always a special occasion after a long off-season.

Dallas missed the playoffs last season and have replaced Luchi Gonzalez, who departed in September, with Nico Estevez, an assistant to Gregg Berhalter at both the Columbus Crew and the US men’s national team. The sale of Ricardo Pepi to German club FC Augsburg will see them short of their most obvious goal-threat and it’s very convenient to get one of the longer road trips to the Western Conference out of the way while avoiding the midsummer heat of Texas.

2021-07-21-TORvsNYRB-Kschischang-0114

March 5 vs. New York Red Bulls

It will likely be a little cold down on the shores of Lake Ontario, but getting back to BMO Field to watch the Reds take to the pitch after a few months away is sure to bring a smile to the face.

It has been a strange few seasons for TFC when it comes to playing at home.

In 2020 the club played one match before the world turned upside down and they were forced to finish the season in East Hartford, Connecticut. 2021 was a little better with TFC able to return to Toronto midway through the year after spending the first few months playing at ‘home’ in Orlando, Florida.

Hopefully this year the team will be able to enjoy the comforts of home for the entire calendar.

Gerhard Struber’s side were knocked out of the 2021 MLS Cup Playoffs in heart-breaking fashion, losing 1-0 in the final moments of extra time away to the Philadelphia Union. They’ve added a few players with MLS experience via trade – Lewis Morgan from Inter Miami CF and Dylan Nealis from Nashville SC – but have seen several departures, including captain Sean Davis who left as a free agent for Tennessee.

April 2 vs. New York City FC

The first few weeks of the season are about getting up to speed. The schedule is crafted so that teams will only play one game a week and with a FIFA International Break scheduled for the end of March Toronto, like most teams, will have only played four matches through the opening month of the season.

That changes in April. The visit of the defending MLS Cup Champions, NYCFC, marks the first of ten matches over the ensuing two months.

Ronny Deila’s side achieved what so many entertaining teams had not been able to before. Wins over Atlanta United, the New England Revolution (in a penalty shootout), and Philadelphia saw NYCFC run through the class of the Eastern Conference en route to the MLS Cup Final. They scored first against Portland, only to be draw level with virtually the last kick of the game, but were clinical from the penalty spot, winning the shootout 4-2.

May 8 at Vancouver Whitecaps FC

Vancouver may be a continent and a conference away, but the matches between Canadian cousins in MLS play are always a measuring stick. While matches against the Whitecaps are more rare than those against CF Montreal, there is fierce competition whenever these two sides meet.

As interim manager Vanni Sartini breathed new life into Vancouver at the end of the 2021 season guiding them to a post-season berth and though they were knocked out by Sporting KC in the First Round, he was rewarded with the full time gig.

Stocked with good talent, both young domestics and international, who have now had a season or two to get a taste of MLS, Vancouver will be looking to take the next steps this season.

This match will be a good warm-up for the intensity TFC will face when they make a trip to Montreal on July 16 during Rivalry Week.

June 18 at New York Red Bulls

Not so much for the game itself, this match away to RBNY makes the beginning of the meat of the 2022 season. More than half of the 34-game schedule will be played over a three-month period beginning on this date.

Bookended by a pair of FIFA international breaks, Toronto will face the Red Bulls after a two-week break that will see the opening four matches of the 2022-23 Concacaf Nations League. Tasty fixtures at home against Atlanta and Columbus will close out the month and six matches in each July and August will lead into another three matches at the start of September before that international window.

18 matches. 54 points. This is where positioning ahead of the final playoff push will be won and lost.

171209-MLS_Cup-86

July 2 vs. Seattle Sounders FC

Given the history between the two clubs, three MLS Cup Final clashes, matches against the Sounders always take on an additional significance.

Add in that this will be the first match for which Lorenzo Insigne is expected to be available and this one is not to be missed.

Brian Schmetzer’s side continued their ever-presence at the top of the Western Conference last season, finishing second, a single point behind the Colorado Rapids, but stumbled in the MLS Cup Playoffs, losing a one-sided affair against a very-defensive minded Real Salt Lake in a shootout following a 0-0 draw.

They have made one of the bigger splashes of the off-season as well, signing Albert Rusnak from Salt Lake as a designated player.

July 23 vs. Charlotte FC

The first-ever match against the newest expansion side in MLS falls smack dab in the middle of the busy period of the year for TFC.

Led by Spanish head coach Miguel Angel Ramirez, Charlotte has made use of all of internal mechanisms of player acquisition – trades, free agency, and the Expansion Draft – to stock themselves with a variety of MLS experience in the likes of Harrison Afful (Columbus), Jaylin Lindsey (Kansas City), Anton Walkes (Atlanta), Christian Makoun (Miami), Yordy Reyna (D.C.), and Pablo Sisniega (LAFC) while also looking to bolster that group with some international signings from both Europe and South America, including Austrian defender Christian Fuchs from Leicester City and Brazilian teenager Vinicius Mello from SC International.

Expansion seasons are always a difficult prospect and how that diverse group will come together remains to be seen. Toronto will face CLTFC twice this year with the return fixture set for Bank of America Stadium on August 27.

August 31 vs. Los Angeles Galaxy

The return of Greg Vanney to BMO Field, whenever it came, was always going to be an important moment.

Vanney, who initially joined the club as academy director, took over the managerial reins at the tail end of the 2014 season and over the ensuing seasons helped lead the club to unprecedented heights including an MLS Cup victory, a Supporters’ Shield, three Eastern Conference Championships, the final of the Concacaf Champions League, and three Voyageurs Cup titles before departing at the conclusion of the 2020 season.

In his first year with the Galaxy, Vanney’s side just missed out on a post-season berth, bettered by Salt Lake on tiebreakers. The departures of key pieces – Jonathan dos Santos and Sebastian Lletget – leaves some work to be done.

Vanney will be bringing with him former Red Raheem Edwards, who joined recently, but at the moment, Victor Vazquez, who was so crucial to TFC’s success before joining Vanney in LA, had his option declined and has yet to re-sign.

2021-10-23-Kschischang-TORvsMTL-0154

September 4 vs. CF Montreal

Wilfried Nancy’s side will make their only league visit to BMO Field at the start of September as the home stretch to the 2022 MLS Cup Playoffs gets underway.

Having taken over the managerial role following the surprise departure of Thierry Henry, Nancy, a long-time assistant coach at Montreal, impressed in his first season, navigating the tricky task of overseeing a team based in Florida for the first half of the campaign.

A dip in form at a crucial time late in the year doomed their hopes of a playoff spot – Montreal finished tenth, two points adrift – but in his second season, under more normal circumstances, Nancy and company will be looking to build on that momentum.

And while the departure of Rudy Camacho has left a gap in the defense and leadership group, the acquisition of Canadian stalwart Alastair Johnston was a big addition to the backline.

October 9 at Philadelphia Union

Decision Day.

While the aim is to have secured a playoff position well before this point, that final weekend of the MLS regular season always provides some entertainment.

Toronto will close the season away to Jim Curtin’s men at the start of October – the two will meet at BMO Field on April 16.

A top three side in the Eastern Conference the last three years, including the 2020 Supporters’ Shield, Curtin has moulded the Union into one of the more consistent sides in the league. An MLS Cup has proved elusive, but dramatic wins over the Red Bulls (last-minute bomb from Jacob Glesnes) and Nashville (in a shootout) saw them advance to the Eastern Conference final in 2021 where they fell to eventual MLS Cup winners NYCFC.

A largely settled side, Philadelphia have made just one addition thus far – Julian Carranza on loan from Inter Miami – though the departures of defender Alvas Powell, veteran presence Aurelien Collin, and wildcard Ilsinho have left some gaps to be filled.

A full season of MLS action lies ahead and though these ten games have been circled on the calendar, in this league are no easy games. It all kicks off at the end of February leading to the MLS Cup Final which is set to be played earlier this season, November 5, with the FIFA World Cup beginning later that month in Qatar.

It’s shaping up to be quite the year for Toronto FC and for soccer in Canada. Be excited.