The United Soccer League, better known as the USL, but formerly known as USL PRO, begin its fifth season on Saturday and this season will be one like no other. The rebranded USL has expanded to 24 teams in 2015, many of them with an affiliation with MLS clubs, one of them being Toronto FC II. Although the new addition to the Toronto FC family will get far less attention than the first team, it is an incredibly large and exciting step for the organization. The USL, on the third tier of the professional soccer pyramid in Canada and the United States, will allow for the development of young players who need minutes and time to grow and prepare themselves for the first team. It will allow TFC Academy, players needing an increasing challenge and ready for another step, the ability to take that direction to grow. TFCII and the USL bridges the gap and allows the Toronto FC to build more and buy less.
Being a new team, Toronto FC II is at the beginning stages of building their roster and their own identity in the USL. Just last week there were the team’s first official signings which were a mix of TFC Academy graduates and MLS Super Draft picks.
MLS 2015 Super Draft Picks:
Clement Simonin (CB) – 9th Overall
Skyler Thomas (CB) – 11th Overall
Wesley Charpie (FB) – 29th Overall
Edwin Rivas (F) – 37th Overall
Sal Bernal (F) – 70th Overall
Luca Uccello (MF)
Mark Anthony Kaye (MF)
Mo Babouli (F)
The Elite Eight is just the first round of roster building and come as little surprise. The eight are a strong base ready to prove themselves for the competition in the USL and the First Team. In addition it is expected the roster will be filled out with the following youngsters who have been with the team in preseason matches. The future looks bright.
GK Quillan Roberts (Loan)
GK Alex Bono (Loan)
D Emeka Ononye
D Tarik Robertson
D Raheem Edwards
D Nikola Stakic
M Marco Nunes
M Martin Davis
M Chris Mannella (Loan)
M Manuel Aparicio (Loan)
M Marco Delgado (Loan)
M Jay Chapman (Loan)
M Daniel Lovitz (Loan)
F Jordan Hamilton (Loan)
End of Season Predictions
Over a 28 game schedule, anything is possible. The talent on the Toronto FC II roster is immense and will surely win matches with a sure fire offense, talented defense and two fantastic goalkeepers. The reality however is that results on the field will not be the end objective for Jason Bent and team. The purpose of TFCII is to develop, coach and guide players to ensure they’re prepared to rise to the first team. The goal for all three levels in TFC Academy, Toronto FC II and Toronto FC is to be consistent amongst each other and be of the same mind set and program. Tactics and ideology will be the drive for these young players.
Similar to their MLS counterpart, TFCII will be on the road for the early part of their schedule as the Ontario Soccer Centre in Vaughan is still being built. They will have two matches at BMO Field once renovations are completed which isn’t until mid-May. Fortunately the team only needs to travel west once during the entire season when they face the Whitecaps FC 2 which should make the schedule overall easier to absorb. In the summer, the schedule changes to be extremely home friendly which will allow them to concentrate on their game and less on distractions of travel.
Will the Toronto FC II qualify for the USL Playoffs? Yes, and here’s why.
- There are an unprecedented number of eleven expansion teams, and two teams who’ve relocated, this season and similar to Toronto will need time to take shape
- The strength of the league is mostly in the Western Conference in LA Galaxy II, 2014 USL Cup Champions the Sacramento Republic FC, Seattle Sounders FC 2, Portland Timbers 2, all of which don’t play Toronto FC II the entire season
- And most importantly, they have a strong group of players with a lot of incentive to perform as there will be opportunities to move up temporarily when players are away on international duty like the Gold Cup