Major League Soccer finally returns to Canada as CF Montreal, Vancouver Whitecaps and Toronto FC will play in their respective home stadiums this weekend.
Due to the pandemic, the three Canadian MLS sides had been training and competing in the United States to avoid any complications during the regular season. CF Montreal used Inter Miami’s installations in Fort Lauderdale, the Vancouver Whitecaps partnered with the Real Salt Lake in Utah and Toronto FC associated with Orlando City.
The three Canadian sides faced uncharted territory and challenges during their relocation, with Montreal even encountering an alligator during one of their training sessions in south Florida.
The trio have not played at home since September 2020. Montreal last featured at Saputo Stadium on September 9 when the team beat Toronto in front of 250 spectators. Vancouver’s last match at BC Place Stadium saw the side triumph 2-1 over Montreal on September 16 with no one in the stands. Toronto spent the most time away, last appearing at BMO Field on September 1 before playing 31 games on the road. Their homecoming means just as much to the fans as it does the clubs.
"The importance of this return home for our team can't be overstated," TFC president Bill Manning said in a statement. "It has been a long, hard time on the road due to pandemic protocols and we have greatly missed the energy and support of our fans at BMO Field. Our return to Canada gave the team an incredible boost this week and we look forward to an emotional night at BMO Field with our fans on Saturday."
Montreal shared the excitement as the Canadian government also agreed to allow fans back into the stadium to support their MLS teams. Individuals were originally banned on March 7 2020, with a brief exception in September for 250 spectators before the stadiums sealed their doors to audiences again.
“After all this time away, we are truly happy to finally be able to play at home," Montreal president and CEO Kevin Gilmore said in a statement. "The past few months have been very difficult for our players and staff, who had to go into exile, but they have shown tremendous resilience. Our supporters have also been remarkably patient throughout this period, and we can't wait to see them at Stade Saputo on Saturday. We hope this is one more step in the right direction towards a full return."