First fix team, then Cup dream

GARETH WHEELER, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 10:31 AM ET

Toronto FC's bid to host the 2010 MLS Cup couldn't come at a better time. It's some good news to distract from a possible Major League Soccer work stoppage and an uninspiring TFC roster.

It's ironic that on Page 6 of TFC's pitch to host the MLS Cup, the claim is made: "Our League is on the precipice of greatness." A work stoppage would certainly render that false.

But before addressing the bid, it's maddeningly frustrating talking about major league soccer and its collective bargaining agreement negotiations with its players.

The entire ordeal is an embarrassment. Any kind of work stoppage would push MLS into the realm of irrelevance. Fans of the game have more than enough soccer viewing alternatives to satiate their appetite.

MLS has just started to garner true interest, while genuinely piquing the interest of the casual fan in recent years. There's no question, the league has gained momentum, especially in important markets. And it wouldn't make sense to threaten those inroads with a work stoppage.

Any CBA issue should have been settled months ago instead of letting the situation dissolve into this charade.

FINAL FANTASY

Now, about the bid. It's positive to see that despite its failures on the field, TFC continues to push the envelope. The business side of TFC's operation deserves a lot of credit for the fine work it continues to do. There's no question, TFC is worthy of the MLS Cup and would host a fantastic final.

All of these "extra" games -- the all-star game, Real Madrid and MLS Cup -- are attractive ventures. But, unfortunately, for TFC supporters, these games all lack the true substance they desire.

A winning team is a must. And the soccer side of TFC continues to lag far behind the business side.

TFC's bid would look much more sincere and properly timed if its own product was better. Yes, the Seattle Sounders hosted the MLS Cup last year in their inaugural season, but even that team was built to compete immediately. Three years of on-field failure simply doesn't look good.

Making such bids, while still fielding an inferior product suggests the operation is putting the cart before the horse. Start winning and build an established club team, then the MLS Cup and high-profile friendlies become the icing on the cake.

This isn't to suggest TFC shouldn't have launched a bid. But until the team starts winning, it's these kind of games that will characterize the team.

Should Toronto get the MLS Cup? Absolutely, but not just yet.

For 2010, the sexier, more important bid comes from New York. ESPN Radio reported last month that the Red Bulls were putting together a bid to host the cup final in their impressive new Red Bull Arena. MLS is very proud of the 25,000 soccer-specific stadium, and showing off the facility in the league's most important market in the league's biggest game makes sense.

Anyway, Toronto would be better off getting the MLS Cup final in a year it has a fighting chance to play in the game.

All indications out of camp suggest the team will be even worse this year. The roster is paper-thin and the departures of Adrian Serioux, Amado Guevara, and, most recently, Carl Robinson hasn't been matched by quality coming the other way.

New head coach Preki admits it's going to take time to make this team a winner. How disheartening is that? Three years in with this franchise and it's still going to take more time? That's how poorly this team has been constructed.

New players still could be on the way. But time is running out with the season opener less than three weeks away.

If nothing else is done, this off-season has to be seen as a failure for Toronto's little team with great ambition.

GARETH.WHEELER@SUNTV.CANOE.CA


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