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Toronto FC to introduce Payne as team president

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Just a day after saying goodbye to the club he helped build into an MLS dynasty, Kevin Payne will be introduced by the new club he will try to steer out of mediocrity.

Toronto FC will introduce Payne as the team’s new president at a 1:30pm press conference today. The move, reported by SBI on Tuesday, pairs one of the league’s worst franchises with arguably the most accomplished team official in MLS history.

Now that Payne is set to take over, the former D.C. United boss will have several major decisions to make. From whether he keeps Paul Mariner on as head coach, to whether TFC will keep the No. 1 pick in the 2013 MLS Draft or trade it. Payne has plenty of off-field issues to tackle as well, such as structuring of the Toronto front office, repairing of ties between the club and a fan base that has grown lethargic and jaded after six years of failure, and establishing better relationships between the club and the Canadian soccer community.

Toronto FC has been searching far and wide for an executive with the reputation and credentials to really make a mark on a club that has struggled badly since joining MLS in 2006. In Payne, the team brings in a president who has experience building a winner, and rebuilding a winner. D.C. United won four MLS Cup titles under Payne, a stat made more impressive by the fact that those four titles came under three different head coaches (one, Thomas Rongen, who happens to now be TFC’s Academy Director.)

Payne will now have the chance to cement his status as the most successful team president in league history if he can turn Toronto FC into a winner. Doing so would help balance the belief that D.C. United’s early success was more a product of Bruce Arena’s handiwork than Payne’s. D.C. United’s fourth championship, won with Peter Nowak as head coach in 2004, helped boost Payne’s credentials and diminish the theory that Payne couldn’t win without Arena either in charge or having built the team (the 1999 MLS Cup championship team in D.C. was made up largely of players Arena brought in).

What do you think of Payne’s chances of turning things around? See him being able to turn TFC into a winner? Think he keeps Mariner as head coach or see him hiring someone else?

Share your thoughts below.


  1. This is a good move for DCU and TFC. DCU needs a President who’s strength is on ticket sales, operations, vendor relations and can step away from player personnel issues. Olsen and Kasper can handle that. The new ownership team with DCU is also hands-on (as is Payne) so there was going to be conflict–someone had to go.

    For TFC, they get someone who the fan base will love. He will get the Red Patch Boys. He’ll make a much more supporter-friendly experience with the club (and no, not just on game day). The club will be aligned. The chief executive will understand soccer and won’t be intimidated by professional soccer coaches/talent evaluators, understand MLS and be extremely well connected, want a coach who’s a leader with a plan, and he will live and breath this club, he will BLEED for this club. There will be more emphasis on the youth academy. The world will be a potential talent resource (rather than just focusing on Holland or the UK). I can’t predict if Mariner and Payne are a match. But Payne will be an executive who knows MLS, won’t need much time to adjust or have a big learning curve. While there might be better “executives” in MLS, Payne is probably the single best choice for a TFC operation that has been a loser and incompetently run, that has turned a loud and proud fanbase in to a jaded bunch of cynics who have come to distrust their club and see it as just a moneymaker for MLSE. This is a very good fit–no a SUPERB fit–for TFC, where they’re at as a club and what they need to move forward.

  2. Mariner wasn’t given much of a chance but I’m kind of hoping he’s let go. I don’t want Payne to use the excuse “well, he wasn’t my hire” at the end of another losing season.

    • Except like I was saying above, the team is so bad that about any coach you could have would lose until the roster got built up more. There needs to be about 2-3 windows worth of sustained, thoughtful acquisition of quality while leaving the trash at the curb. And for TFC to be someplace people want to play, there also needs to be a quality coach players like, Toronto needs to be more player magnet and less train wreck.

      Personally, I think they need to sign a high quality name coach or cup-winning MLS veteran, in the manner of Arena Sigi Rongen Bradley, I’m not sold Mariner is the one to do it. But whoever they pick needs to be publicly given the keys to the team with long term support.

  3. Just think about all the ridiculousness that has spewed from Kevin Payne over the last few years. It seems like everything he says is simply stupid. Just ask Seattle fans who remember the ridiculous statements he made when DC was going to face Seattle in the Open Cup. He’s just a clown. At least he has been able to do some things right (which will be an upgrade for TFC). However, there are few people in MLS that make a bigger public fool out of themselves than Payne.

    • Please cite one example of how Payne made a “fool” of himself other than during the run up to DC/Seattle Open Cup game (which I don’t agree with you about).

    • I think that you mean that he is “entertaining” not a “clown.”

      This is why I watch the game, entertainment. When the executives create soap operas it makes things a little fun off the pitch too.


  4. Thanks for being out in front on this story, Ives. The Canadian media has been following your lead.

    My only quibble is this: you’re being a bit generous when you suggest that TFC needs to rise from mediocrity. TFC stinks right now.

    • I agree re “mediocrity,” the Cummins/ Preki years were mediocre, teams knocking on the playoff door but not getting in. TFC is 7 points behind the next-worst team on the table, allowed the most goals, and is also in the bottom few on goals for (though not the worst, which is something to build on). And my general impression when they started ugly and got worse was that if you look at their roster, it’s just not very good.

      I say that because I think the coaching question is complicated for them. First, the team roster is so bad it’s hard to evaluate Mariner or know if a big name coach could accomplish much at this point. You basically have to speculate, if this was a decent team, would this coach help? Second, IMO part of TFC’s problem was when they got close instead of building around that team they’d fire the coach for missing the playoffs. There’s little coaching stability. So I think the focus needs to shift to team-building and whatever coach they have needs to be left alone for a while. I think bringing in a MLS guy like Payne is a good front office decision — they haven’t been close to good since Mo left — but the question is, will the coaching be well-considered, or will this continue to be a coaching turnstile with a tear-down roster (reflecting the fact that every coach who comes in wants to remake the team from scratch in his image).

      • TFC has some quality players (when they’re healthy), but other than Koevermans, Hassli, Johnson, Avila and Frings, TFC are a bunch of sub-par dudes. I’m not sure a new coach can do much more with that pool than did Winter and/or Mariner.

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