TORONTO — For the second year in a row, Toronto FC will be racking up frequent flyer miles to open the MLS season.
Thanks to stadium renovations, Toronto plays the first eight games of its 10th season away from home, starting March 6 against the New York Red Bulls. The team then visits New York, Kansas City, Colorado, New England, D.C. United, Montreal and defending champion Portland before hosting FC Dallas at BMO Field on May 7.
Six of those road destinations are teams that made the playoffs last season. At the other end of the schedule, 10 of Toronto's last 15 games are at home.
In December, MLS announced the first two games of the 2016 season for each team. It fleshed out the full schedule Thursday. Every team plays a 34-game schedule with clubs facing conference opponents either two or three times and out-of-conference teams just once.
The league's 21st season kicks off March 6 and runs through Oct 23. MLS will take a break from June 3 to 14 for the Copa America Centenario.
The Vancouver Whitecaps will see the rival Portland Timbers three times this season, with two visits to B.C. Place Stadium. The Timbers ended Vancouver's 2015 season in the Western Conference semifinal.
The Whitecaps will host the Montreal Impact on opening day but Vancouver fans will not see Toronto FC and reigning MVP Sebastian Giovinco on the West Coast.
Toronto will host the Whitecaps on May 14. TFC and the Impact will face off three times, April 23 and Oct. 16 in Montreal and Aug. 27 in Toronto.
The April 23 game is the first of 15 for Montreal at Stade Saputo.
Montreal has its home opener March 12 at Olympic Stadium against the Red Bulls. The Impact will then play in Dallas on March 19 and in Seattle on April 2 before facing Columbus, which ousted it from the playoffs in the Eastern Conference semifinal, at Olympic Stadium on April 9.
The Impact wrap up the season in New England while Vancouver entertains Portland and Toronto hosts Chicago.
Stadium renovations also forced Toronto to play the first seven games of last season — eight if you include a Canadian Championship matchup — before its home opener May 10 against the Houston Dynamo. Toronto went 3-4-0 in regular-season play to open the campaign.
On the plus side, 10 of Toronto's last 14 games were at home in 2015.
The wait should be worth it for Toronto fans. The second stage of $120-million renovation includes a roof over the east, west and south stands as well as new lighting and sound systems.
MLS teams open training camp later this month.
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Neil Davidson, The Canadian Press