SPORTS

Toronto FC to use Rogers Centre for Champions League opener

12/21/2011 04:15 EST | Updated 02/20/2012 05:12 EST

Toronto FC will forego its regular stomping ground of BMO Field in favour of the larger, indoor Rogers Centre for the first leg of its CONCACAF Champions League quarter-final against the Los Angeles Galaxy on March 7, sportsnet.ca is reporting.

The MLS Cup champion Galaxy will host Toronto in the second leg March 14 at the Home Depot Center in Carson, Calif. The winners will advance to the semifinals in late March and early April.

"A lot of thought went into selecting the home site for this very important match," said Paul Beirne, Toronto FC's senior director of business operations. "While we would have loved to host our quarter-final match at our home, BMO Field, ultimately the decision came down to our ability to deliver a safe and enjoyable event in a venue that could withstand the unpredictability of March's weather conditions.

"We felt that BMO Field's infrastructure in its present state combined with the exposure to the winter conditions would not deliver on this experience."

Toronto is one of three MLS teams left in the club competition, which covers North and Central America and the Caribbean.

TFC’s home — sometimes dubbed by fans as “Fortress BMO Field” for its passionate atmosphere — is an outdoor, grass-field facility of 20,000. Due to the late-winter timing of the Champions League playdowns, snow and cold weather could cause damage to the facilities, particularly with the plumbing.

Rogers Centre presented another option for the club.

Home to the Blue Jays and Argonauts, it can seat over 50,000 spectators, although the playing will be artificial turf.

A spokesperson at Maple Leaf Sports and Entertainment said it would be the same synthetic surface used in a friendly between Italian clubs Juventus and Fiorentina on May 25, 2010.

"Natural grass is a lot better than synthetic surfaces," said Juventus star Allesandro Del Piero after that match, sharply criticizing the playing conditions at Rogers Centre. "But the atmosphere was great, and I am happy the fans were so enthusiastic."

The status of the Galaxy’s marquee star, David Beckham, is still unknown. He’s out of contract with the MLS club and there are rumours he’s close to joining Paris St. Germain of Ligue 1 in France.

Toronto FC advanced to the quarter-final round of the Champions League for the first time after edging out FC Dallas in their round-robin group in October.

The only other Canadian club to advance to the quarter-final stage of the tournament was the Montreal Impact, when they played in the lower USL-1 league. The Impact played their quarter-final match at Olympic Stadium in February 2009 where they beat Mexico’s Santos Laguna 2-0 in front of over 55,000 fans.

Montreal kicks off its inaugural MLS campaign this season.

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