Aron Winter
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Reds Weigh Location Pros & Cons

TORONTO - As it does in Canada, the talk turned to snow on Tuesday, specifically how much Aron Winter, the head coach and technical director for Toronto FC enjoys the stuff.

“To play in the snow is great,” he said. “To play soccer in the snow…no.”

Canadian weather, impossible to predict from hour to hour, leaves the people who run the club facing a fascinating back-story for their CONCACAF Champions League date in early March.

When the LA Galaxy or Mexican opponents Santos Laguna and Monterrey come to Toronto for the first of the two-game aggregate series, will their bus stop at BMO Field or the Rogers Centre?

RELATED: CCL draw Tuesday, November 8

The chance to advance into Champions League play is the high-water mark of what was often a lamentable Major League Soccer season for TFC.

Thanks to a late-season win in Dallas after 11 games in two cup competitions, Toronto is into the quarterfinals of the tournament. Theoretically, along with the impressive feat of being crowned North America's top team, they could be six games away from the FIFA Club World Cup and all the attendant buzz such an appearance would create.

A crowd of upwards of 30,000, perhaps far more would likely be expected for the quarterfinals in March.

But there’s a hitch. Where to play?

Certainly, the preferred site is BMO Field. The team is obviously used to the surroundings, the hardy fans who fill it would no doubt be in splendid voice and any of the three warm weather opponents would likely not fancy playing in what will be, based on the calendar, less than ideal soccer weather.

That could swing home field advantage more clearly toward TFC. But as tempting as that March matchup would be, there are obstacles.

“The field is the least of our worries,” said Earl Cochrane, TFC’s director of team and player operations.  “We can get the field up and running and ready to play and it could be in great shape. It’s all of the other stuff."

Start with the seating. Rogers Centre would easily accommodate the flow of spectators. The domed stadium can hold 50,000 fans, more than twice the number of fans that can squeeze into BMO.

Then there are the logistics of holding an event that can be turned into a circus by a snowstorm or ice shower.

“We have to make sure the stands are safe,” Cochrane said. “Plumbing, the rest rooms, amenities. Even the scanners ticket takers use don’t operate really well depending on the temperatures. “

From a comfort level and the ease of staging indoors, the Rogers Centre beckons.

“Weigh all that versus being indoors and it’s an easy one, but there are challenges of a different venue,” Cochrane said. “We’ve got obligations here to partners and sponsors.”

The pitch would likely be problematic at Rogers Centre. While the sightlines are passable, the field is an artificial surface.

“It’s ok. It’s not great,” Cochrane said. “Whether they could groom it up to the level we are looking for is debatable.”

When Manchester United and Celtic played a friendly at the Rogers Centre in July 2010, the field was trucked in from Burford, 100 kilometres Southwest of Toronto and assembled just prior to the game. Dense live grass is a little harder to find in March.

“You’re probably talking Carolinas, maybe Florida,” Cochrane said.

For Winter, an outdoor game in frigid temperature carries no guarantee of victory.

“The optimal thing is to play the first game away and the second game at home but we didn’t win the group stage so the first leg is going to be at home,” he said.

“When you play in front of a full stadium, it doesn’t matter here or in the Rogers Centre, it depends what we are doing. Are we fit, are they doing the things we expect. That’s more important.”

Team officials will have to pick between March 6, 7 and 8 for the game. The team will play the away contest March 13, 14 or 15.

Look for a final announcement on the date and location of the game this month on TorontoFC.ca.