Published February 27, 2024

Simcoe County Rovers to face MLS Toronto FC in Canadian Championship

Simcoe County Rovers FC / TFC

News release - Simcoe County Rovers FC

It’s an exciting time for the Simcoe County Rovers and the City of Barrie as the team gets set to play in The TELUS Canadian Championship for the first time.

The national competition, set to kick off on April 23, will feature 14 sides, including three Major League Soccer teams, eight Canadian Premier League clubs and three League1 Canada teams. After the single-leg preliminary round, both the quarter and semifinals will feature a home-and-away format, culminating in a single-match Final. A further draw for the semifinals and final will be held after those two rounds have been completed.

The draw for the Preliminary round was held on Friday February 23rd and for the Simcoe County Rovers, a dream match-up versus MLS giants Toronto FC awaits.

In 2017, Toronto FC became the first Canadian team to win the MLS Cup, and the first MLS team to complete a domestic treble, after winning the Canadian Championship and Supporter’s Shield earlier in the season. As of 2023, the club has an estimated value of US $690 million, making them the sixth most valuable club in MLS. It’s a massive opportunity for the community-backed Rovers to showcase their talent while proudly representing League1 and the City of Barrie. The match will take place at BMO Field in Toronto at a date to be confirmed but between April 23rd and May 3rd.

Multiple storylines around the match will add to its significance for the Rovers and highlight the connections between the two clubs. Rovers founder Julian de Guzman joined Toronto FC in 2009 as a Designated Player, becoming the first-ever Canadian Designated Player in MLS League history. He made 93 appearances for the club where he recorded three goals and seven assists and proudly served as captain.

Doneil Henry, one of the club’s owners currently training with the Rovers and providing mentorship to the club, started his soccer journey at TFC Academy in 2008 and progressed to the big club, featuring in Canadian Championship, CONCACAF Champions League and MLS matches during his career with Toronto FC.

The connections with Toronto FC don’t end there. Rovers’ ownership includes former national team players who played under new Toronto FC coach John

Herdman. Former national team captain Atiba Hutchinson and star forwards Janine Beckie and Cyle Larin in addition to defender Doneil Henry all played under Herdman while proudly representing Canada on the international stage.

Simcoe County Rovers head coach Zico Mahrady will be the second youngest coach in Canadian Championship history and understands the significance of the moment. When asked how he would prepare the community club to take on one of the largest professional clubs in North America, Coach Zico Mahrady provided this thoughtful response.

“Playing one of the biggest teams in the country poses its challenges however, we can only focus on what we can control and that is to utilize our resources to best prepare our team," said Mahrady. "At the moment, our focus continues to be our pre-season phase and the growth of our team’s development. We have to ensure our players have clarity on their roles and responsibilities and are well-equipped to compete.

“The Canadian Championship is an important step for player and staff development. We have both players and staff with aspirations to reach the next level. Playing in the prestigious tournament allows all involved a first-hand experience of what it’s like at the top.”

It's an important match-up for the club and the City of Barrie. The Simcoe County Rovers are the first team from Barrie to ever play a professional major league sports team in any sport. The club is proud that it will be the first majority Black ownership group to play in the Canadian Championship in addition to having the first female owner in the Canadian Championship. These facts are not lost on President and CEO, Peter Raco.

“We set off to create a club rooted in the community, a club the people of Barrie could collectively rally behind when launching the Rovers in 2021. This match-up versus Toronto FC is not a friendly. We are fighting for our community in the most prestigious professional soccer tournament in our county. We have the opportunity to celebrate our civic pride on the largest stage in Canada. Barrie is on the main stage!”

Barrie Mayor Alex Nuttall, a passionate soccer fan, was enthusiastic when he heard the news.

“A classic David vs Goliath story! Our Simcoe County Rovers FC will play Toronto FC in the first round of the Canadian Championship, a scenario which has never been seen by any sports team in our city. Much like the historic FA Cup of English soccer, upsets are possible and are what make the tournament the must-see event it is. Congrats Rovers and your city will be cheering you on!”

The Rovers resumed formal training a month ago and with core players returning and several new signings are excited to begin the regular season at the end of April.

“We are thrilled to represent the city of Barrie, and when we face Toronto FC at BMO Field, we’re hopeful the entire community rallies around us and we make our presence in Toronto felt. Our fans are the best in League1, and we rely on the goodwill and passion of our fans through season ticket purchases and our valued corporate partners to help drive us forward. We’re committed to growing the game of soccer in Barrie and creating pathways for our talented male and female players with professional aspirations,” said CMO David Zbar.

The Simcoe County Rovers Men’s and Women’s will kick off the 2024 season in April and will play their home matches out of J.C Massie Field at Georgian College, Barrie.

For more season ticket information on the Simcoe County Rovers FC, including ticket purchase options please visit

Banner image via the Simcoe County Rovers FC

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