Major League Soccer’s Toronto FC franchise will play its home matches at Rentschler Field in East Hartford beginning with a Sept. 27 game against Columbus.
MLS is in the process of finalizing travel protocols for the remainder of the regular season, and additional matches are anticipated to be announced soon.
“Pratt & Whitney Stadium is an ideal location for professional soccer, and I am excited that we’ve reached an agreement with Toronto FC to have the club play their home games here,” Lamont said in a statement. “Our state is filled with thousands of MLS fans who no doubt will be excited by this news. I thank Toronto FC’s management team for working with my administration to finalize this agreement, and we look forward to having the Reds in Connecticut.”
There are currently no plans to allow fans into the games played at Rentschler Field, according to the Capital Region Development Authority. The CRDA, a quasi-public state entity, operates Rentschler.
“I’m done guessing what COVID means to all of us but initially and practically speaking, it is fan-less operation,” CRDA Executive Director Michael Freimuth said. “It was really done because teams couldn’t get through the international travel restrictions right now and still play their games in the North American leagues. There were three Canadian teams caught in this situation and we were approached.
“It’s meant to be fanless. We will rent the building to them since we aren’t using it [with UConn not playing football this fall due to COVID-19]. It will drive the hotel nights for the team and the visiting teams and they’re going to have to practice all the COVID-related rules and regulations that the state Department of Health puts out.”
MLS also announced that the Montreal Impact’s home field will be the Red Bull Arena in Harrison, New Jersey, and the Vancouver Whitecaps will play at Providence Park in Portland, Oregon.
Photo: Jim Rogash / Getty Images
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Connecticut and Hartford officials previously reached out to the Toronto Blue Jays about playing home games at Dunkin’ Donuts Park in Hartford. The Blue Jays decided instead to use Sahlen Field in Buffalo, New York, the site of Toronto’s Triple-A affiliate, during the 60-game MLB season.
“Our state has worked incredibly hard to get our economy moving during this pandemic, and seeing a professional sports franchise like Toronto FC select the Hartford region as its home sure is validation that our strategy has worked,” Connecticut Department of Economic and Community Development Commissioner David Lehman said in a statement. “We are proud to be the temporary home for our newfound Canadian partner.”
Toronto’s active roster includes U.S. national team mainstays Jozy Altidore and Michael Bradley.
“While we continue to work with government officials on our travel protocols, it is important to the club to have our own home away from home during this next phase,” Toronto FC President Bill Manning said. “The State of Connecticut opened their arms for us and my compliments to David Lehman and Governor Lamont for their leadership here. Pratt & Whitney Stadium at Rentschler Field is a great venue. They’ve hosted a number of international games and we’re excited to play there.”
Rentschler Field has hosted friendlies for the U.S. men’s and women’s national team programs and was the site of Landon Donovan’s last appearance with the U.S. national team in 2014.
“They recognize that this is a good soccer market,” Freimuth said. “They really like Rentschler. Rentschler sets up very nicely for professional soccer. It’s got a superb grass field, it has been well received with international games that we’ve had and drawn very well for those games. The local USL team [Hartford Athletic] is doing well, so this is a soccer market and it’s being recognized as such. But the field really lent itself nicely to what Toronto wanted and that was an advantage too.”
New York City FC played Houston at Rentschler on Sept. 23, 2017. Nine of the 14 international friendlies involving the U.S. at Rentschler Field have drawn more than 20,000 fans. While not having fans will impact the game-day atmosphere, there is a chance Rentschler could solidify itself as an option if MLS looks for a place to put one of its franchises.
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