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Toronto FC looking at hosting Cruz Azul at Raymond James Stadium in Tampa

Toronto FC is looking at hosting Mexico's Cruz Azul at Raymond James Stadium in Tampa, Fla., later this month. The two teams are set to meet April 27 in the first leg of their Scotiabank CONCACAF Champions League quarterfinal.
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Toronto FC is looking at hosting Mexico's Cruz Azul at Raymond James Stadium in Tampa, Fla., later this month.

The two teams are set to meet April 27 in the first leg of their Scotiabank CONCACAF Champions League quarterfinal. The second leg is scheduled for May 4 in Mexico.

The Champions League is CONCACAF's flagship club competition.

TFC president Bill Manning says the Toronto end of the tie will be played at Raymond James, "pending site inspections."

Raymond James Stadium is home to the Super Bowl champion Tampa Bay Buccaneers.

The 65,000-capacity venue, which hosted its first NFL game in 1998, is named after Raymond James Financial, a financial services firm headquartered in nearby St. Petersburg.

Manning knows the stadium. He served as president and GM of the MLS's Tampa Bay Mutiny, which moved there in 1999 before folding.

Toronto GM Ali Curtis is also familiar with the venue. He played there with the Mutiny in 2001 when Tampa Bay went 4-21-2.

The stadium is famous for its 30-metre-long pirate ship at one end, complete with cannons — which fire seven times after each Buccaneer touchdown and three times after a field goal.

Toronto has shifted operations to Orlando due to pandemic-related travel restrictions.

Its first two MLS home games are scheduled for Exploria Stadium, home to Orlando City SC. The club has not specified venues for future home matches.

TFC was scheduled to play its end of the Champions League round-of-16 tie against Mexico's Club Leon at Osceola Heritage Park in Kissimmee last Wednesday.

But the game was shifted to the ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex in Lake Buena Vista after CONCACAF, the confederation that covers North and Central America and the Caribbean, objected to a retaining wall it said was too close to the pitch.

Rather than reduce the playing surface, Toronto opted to change venues.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published April 17, 2021

Neil Davidson, The Canadian Press