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Toronto FC, Canadian Akinola agree to terminate contract

Toronto FC Ayo Akinola Ayo Akinola - Gregory Fisher/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

TORONTO — Canadian forward Ayo Akinola, who turned heads with a breakout performance for Toronto FC at the MLS is Back Tournament in 2020, has left his hometown club after agreeing to a mutual termination of his contract.

The 24-year-old scored 18 goals in 96 appearances across all competitions since joining the MLS club in December 2017 as a homegrown player. Nine of those goals came in league play in 2020.

Akinola has been a forgotten figure of late at TFC, playing just 82 minutes off the bench across five league appearances this season.

Toronto loaned Akinola to the San Jose Earthquakes last July for the remainder of the 2023 campaign.

“We want to thank Ayo for his contributions to our club dating back to his days in our academy,” Toronto GM Jason Hernandez said in a five-paragraph statement. “We all wish him the best in the next chapter of his career.”

Akinola scored five goals MLS is Back Tournament in Orlando, behind only LAFC's Diego Rossi in the competition's scoring race. He had a hat trick against CF Montreal at the tournament, becoming the third-youngest MLS player to manage the feat.

The native of Brampton, Ont., underwent surgery in August 2021 to repair an anterior cruciate ligament injured on international duty with Canada at the Gold Cup. Making his first start and second appearance for Canada since switching allegiance from the U.S., Akinola was forced off the field after his right knee appeared to twist in a challenge with James Sands.

Akinola, who has won four caps for Canada, earned US$771,875 last season. His contract ran through this season with an option for 2025.

The mutual contact termination provides TFC with an open roster slot and some salary cap relief.

The two parties essentially come to a financial agreement with the agreed-upon amount counting against the salary cap in 2024,

Akinola signed his existing contract with the club in January 2022 as part of the league's new under-22 initiative.

"We have seen glimpses the last two seasons of just how impactful Ayo can be and it’s exciting to think of what’s still to come for him as a TFC player,” Toronto president Bill Manning said in announcing the deal.

At the time Akinola had 14 goals in 46 appearances across all competitions.

Akinola made his MLS debut against Minnesota United on July 5, 2018, and scored his first MLS goal on March 17, 2019, against New England Revolution.

He spent two seasons with Toronto FC II, scoring eight goals in 34 appearances.

Born in Detroit to Nigerian parents, Akinola came to Canada when he was one. As a result, he had options when it comes to playing internationally.

Akinola was 14 when he started with the U.S. youth program, soon after joining the TFC academy. He got the call-up after a scout saw him in a 5-0 win over a New York Red Bulls youth side.

At 15, he moved down to Bradenton, Fla., where he spent more than 18 months with the U.S. residency program. At the FIFA U-17 World Cup in India in 2017, he had one goal and one assist in five matches.


This report by The Canadian Press was first published May 7, 2024