SBD/January 10, 2014/Franchises

Michael Bradley Heading To MLS Toronto FC Shows Growth Signs For Team, League Alike

Bradley further bolsters MLS's credibility by cutting short his time in Europe
MLS Toronto FC's reported signing of Serie A club AS Roma MF Michael Bradley, along with this week's additions of DC United MF Dwayne De Rosario and EPL club Tottenham Hotspur F Jermain Defoe, "should jolt life" into Toronto FC "while further adding lustre" to MLS itself, according to Neil Davidson of the CP. Maple Leaf Sports & Entertainment is "shelling out millions to turn what has been the MLS doormat for seven years into a world force." Toronto FC GM Tim Bezbatchenko said that for a team yet to make the MLS playoffs, the club's ownership "is thinking big -- well beyond mere post-season play." Bezbatchenko: "We want to be internationally recognized as a top club." Davidson writes, "Up until now, the only thing world-class about Toronto FC has been its training centre." Poor on-field results "have led to management and player turnover which have led to poor results which have led to management and player turnover." MLSE President & CEO Tim Leiweke "is not one for half-measures and, with the backing of the MLSE board, has opened up the vault for Bezbatchenko and manager Ryan Nelsen" (CP, 1/9). REUTERS' Martyn Herman writes after Toronto FC finished second from the bottom of the Eastern Conference last season, the signings of Defoe and Bradley are "a signal of intent" from MLSE (REUTERS, 1/10). ESPN The Magazine's Doug McIntyre said, "Fans have suffered for a long time in Toronto but there's a sense with Tim Leiweke in charge that maybe things are going to be better going forward" ("ESPN FC," ESPN2, 1/9). ESPN's Alexi Lalas said Leiweke "wants to create a super club and in order to do that you've got to spend big and you have to do big, bold things. And make no mistake about it, this is what this is all about" ("OTL," ESPN2, 1/9).

BIG UPS TO THE LEAGUE: In DC, Steven Goff writes Bradley's move to Toronto FC is "terrific for MLS." The league "would gain the U.S. national team's most important player ... in the prime of his career in the build-up to a World Cup." Bradley by "cutting short" his time in Europe "further bolsters MLS's credibility at home." It is "an unbelievable coup for the Toronto organization." However, Bradley "is to join the most dysfunctional operation this side of Chivas USA" (WASHINGTONPOST.com, 1/9). In N.Y., Billy Witz writes under the header, "Deals Show MLS Is No Longer An Afterthought." Witz writes when a player like Bradley or Sounders F Clint Dempsey, who signed with his MLS team last summer, returns to the league "in his prime, it is another promising sign for a league that is also making steady progress in franchise values, development programs and popularity" (N.Y. TIMES, 1/10). ESPNFC.com's Jeff Carlisle said, "This is a statement of intent from MLS. It was easy to think that Dempsey's arrival last August was a one-off but here we are five months later and another big U.S. international is coming home to MLS." He added, "They've made it clear they want to be one of the top leagues in the world by 2022. Now that can viewed with a fair amount of skepticism, of course, but if you’re actually going to try to reach that goal one of the things that you have to do is get the best American players playing in North America and from that standpoint it definitely is a trend" ("OTL," ESPN2, 1/9). ESPN’s Ian Darke said Toronto FC adding Bradley is "brilliant for Major League Soccer and I hope the other clubs get the wherewithal to attract other players who are at their peak" ("ESPN FC," ESPN2, 1/9).

MARKETING EXPORT: The transfer agreement sending Defoe from Tottenham to Toronto FC includes an advertising rights agreement between the clubs. Toronto FC and MLSE will provide Tottenham with promotion, advertising, broadcasting, social media and digital rights across all of MLSE’s properties and media platforms. MLSE will also carry official Tottenham merchandise at its retail outlets (Chris Botta, Staff Writer).
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Franchises, Toronto FC, MLS

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