TFC draws praise

DEAN McNULTY -- Sun Media

, Last Updated: 7:33 AM ET

Toronto FC has yet to kick a ball in a regular-season game but the expansion Major League Soccer side yesterday was labelled the most successful team launch in MLS history by league commissioner Don Garber.

Speaking from New York, Garber said that fan and corporate reaction to TFC has taken both he and the league by storm.

"Right from the time that the Maple Leaf Sports and Entertainment group was named the 13th MLS team up there, it has been one exciting piece of news after another," he said.

"It will mark the first time an expansion team has started with a new purpose built soccer stadium and the first time a new team starts with its season ticket allocation sold out before opening day.

"There has been more buzz around the Toronto team than any other in league history."

Garber said that success has spurred the league to seek more expansion franchises.

"We hope to have a 16-team league by 2010," he said. "We are in very active discussion in lots of different markets including Atlanta, Miami, San Francisco and most recently with a city in the Pacific Northwest."

Garber said in spite of TFC's 14,000 sold out season ticket base, he knows that the Toronto market is a soccer savvy one and promised fans won't be let down by the level of play MLS will bring to BMO Field.

He said that while the signing of soccer superstar David Beckham by Los Angeles Galaxy was certainly a factor in ticket sales by TFC and other MLS teams, that alone couldn't be called the only thing that is pushing MLS popularity.

"I have no doubts at all that (MLS) is on the verge of becoming one of North America's premier professional sports organizations," Garber said.

"It is no longer if this will happen but when this will happen. The fans in Toronto will be very pleased by the level of play at BMO Field."

MLS also used yesterday's conference call to announce some changes in the way the league operates.

Starting this season four MLS teams with the best regular season records in 2007 will qualify for SuperLiga 2008 -- a tournament that will pit them against the four best clubs from Mexico's premier league with a cash prize of $1 million (U.S.) to the winner.

And also this season the playoff format will be expanded to include the top two teams in each conference along with four wild card teams which have highest point-totals in the standings, regardless of conference.

MLS will also use full time game officials sanctioned by U.S. Soccer for the first time this season.


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