Toronto to join Major League Soccer in 2007

May 11, 2006

HARTFORD, Connecticut, May 11 (Reuters) - Toronto FC will join Major League Soccer (MLS) next year, becoming the first team from outside the U.S. in the league.

'We're thrilled to have Toronto FC as the 13th team in MLS and our first international club,' league commissioner Don Garber in a statement on Thursday.

'The combination of a new stadium, a diverse sports market and one of the elite sports and entertainment organisations in the world provides an exciting future for MLS in Canada,' he added.

The league granted Toronto a team in October 2005 after an agreement was reached to build a permanent soccer-specific stadium at the city's Exhibition Place.

The 20,000-seat venue is expected to be completed by the end of the year. In addition to being the home of Toronto FC and the Canadian national team, it will host the FIFA Under-20 World Championship next July.

'This is an exciting day for soccer fans in Toronto who can now enjoy great quality soccer and have a team they can call their own,' Tom Anselmi, executive vice president and chief operating officer of Maple Leaf Sports & Entertainment (MLSE), the club's investor-operator, said in a statement.

'Toronto provides the perfect backdrop for the world's number one sport given our city's diversity and affinity for soccer. We're committed to making Toronto FC and Major League Soccer a success.'

MLSE is a privately held corporation that owns the Toronto Maple Leafs of the National Hockey League and the Toronto Raptors of the National Basketball Association.

Major League Soccer plans to have 16 teams by 2010.