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The Proud History of Toronto FC

Michael Bradley. Jozy Altidore. Sebastian Giovinco.

All three of these players are household names in Major League Soccer circles. In fact, they're all recognizable to most international fans as well. The link they share is that they all form part of the proud history of Toronto FC, the first Canadian franchise in MLS history and eight-time Canadian Championship winners.

Two of the mentioned players may have moved on from Ontario's capital, but Michael Bradley remains as The Reds' captain. As Toronto FC enters a new era under interim head coach Terry Dunfield, we look back on the franchise's history. We'll name some of the coaches and players, and mention some achievements that have shaped Toronto FC into the club it is today.

Toronto FC MLS Origins

The MLS granted Toronto a franchise in 2005, with the team's name announced in May 2006. The moniker Toronto FC stuck after 40% of the online voting public opted for it in favour of "Toronto Reds", "Inter Toronto FC", and "Toronto Northmen."

After an unsuccessful start to its debut MLS season in 2007, TFC's first goal, and first win, came almost exactly a year after its name announcement. Englishman Danny Dichio, an ex-English Premier League player, will remain in Toronto FC folklore as the goalscorer. 

Although Toronto FC won only six times that season, the team's support grew from strength to strength. Fans flocked to BMO Field to watch the side play. Developers did a fine job building BMO Field - organizers even chose to host the MLS All-Stars game there in 2008.

Early MLS Form

Despite the goalscoring feats of Ontario native Dwayne de Rosario in 2009 and 2010, Toronto FC underachieved in the league. At the end of 2010, the franchise hired Jürgen Klinsmann's soccer consultant company, SoccerSolutions. Its six-month task was to improve playing matters at the club. 

The franchise appointed well-known ex-Dutch international Aron Winter as head coach. Paul Mariner, capped 35 times by England, became the new Director of Football. They convinced international stars Torsten Frings and Danny Koevermans to sign as designated players. 


The impact of the new management and signings, and Klinsmann's influence, was noticeable. The Reds finished the 2011 season with only two losses in their last dozen games. Toronto FC also became the first Canadian team to reach the semi-finals of the CONCACAF Champions League that same year.

In 2013, Tim Bezbatchenko took over as General Manager, and some high-profile signings followed. Tottenham's Jermaine Defoe and Michael Bradley from AS Roma both signed in 2014. Dwayne de Rosario, having previously left, also rejoined The Reds.

In 2015, 11 months after signing, Defoe departed for Sunderland in a player swap deal with Jozy Altidore. Three days later Sebastian Giovinco joined from Juventus. At the end of 2015, Toronto FC qualified for the MLS playoffs for the first time. Good things were to follow.

Success at last

Bradley, Altidore, and Giovinco all became immediate fan favorites. Bradley, team captain since 2015, bossed the midfield. The strike pair of Altidore and Giovinco affected the forward line positively. 

More goal chances resulted in Toronto FC ending 2016 in a then-record 5th position on the league table. TFC also reached the semi-finals of the MLS playoffs for the first time.

Sebastian Giovinco was cementing his reputation as a goalscorer. He had been Toronto FC's top scorer in both 2015 (also MLS Golden Boot winner) and 2016 with over 20 goals in each. In 2017, another 20-goal season by the Italian propelled The Reds into 1st place in its conference. Toronto FC also topped the MLS league table and finally won the prestigious MLS Cup. 

Toronto FC had arrived in a big way. 

The last five years and the future 

After its successful 2017 season, Toronto FC made it all the way to the 2018 CONCACAF Champions League final. Guadalajara ended TFC's title chance at the final hurdle, though. The Mexican club beat them on penalties after an exciting double-legged finale.

Although 2018's league performances were sub-par, Sebastian Giovinco ended as the club's top scorer again. He left the club in 2019 as the all-time record goalscorer with 68 goals in 114 appearances. Fortunately, Giovinco's replacement took over where he left off. Alejandro Pozuelo from Spain scored 14 goals in 2019 to help secure a runners-up position in the MLS Cup.

Since Toronto FC's 2nd place finish in the 2020 MLS league, performances haven't been anything to write about. The franchise has only won three times in 25 league games in 2023. Terry Dunfield will be hard-pressed to change The Reds' fortunes while he remains at the helm, and bookmakers tend to agree. 

Toronto FC currently have the highest odds of all teams to win the MLS Cup this season. Fans who visit the top Ontario sports betting site will find the Reds at odds of between +50000 and +100000 depending on the bookmaker. They’re also around +650 to win against Columbus Crew (-233) in their next upcoming game, and around +230 to take down the Philadelphia Union (+120) when they face off later in the month.

Toronto FC's fans certainly won't be going anywhere. Stadium turnouts continue to be high, and betting support for the club remains strong. 

Wrap Up

With a great history to fall back on, some of the MLS's most vociferous fans will hope that Ontario's finest can turn its recent misfortune around. The pedigree is there, as is previous success. With the right playing staff and management, you can be sure Toronto FC will soon compete for MLS and other silverware once more.


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