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Toronto FC exercises contract option on towering defender Mabika

Aime Mabika Toronto FC Aime Mabika - The Canadian Press

Toronto FC has exercised the option on six-foot-six centre back Aime Mabika.

On Nov. 2, when Toronto announced its first round of roster moves, the MLS club said it had retained a 2024 contract option for Mabika and remained in discussions with the defender.

On Friday, TFC said Mabika was staying in the fold.

Also Friday, San Jose confirmed it is not exercising the purchase option on Canadian forward Ayo Akinola who was loaned by Toronto to the Earthquakes in late July. The 23-year-old went scoreless in seven league appearances for San Jose.

The 25-year-old Mabika, who made US$93,570 this season, made 21 appearances for Toronto with 17 starts in 2023. He joins Kobe Franklin, Shane O’Neill, Raoul Petretta, Sigurd Rosted and Luke Singh as defenders under contract for next season.

Toronto acquired Mabika in late April from Inter Miami in exchange for US$100,000 in general allocation money with an additional US$100,000 in allocation money going to Miami if certain performance-based metrics were met.

Mabika arrived with contract options for 2024 and 2025.

Born in Zambia to Congolese parents, Mabika was seven or eight when his family moved to the United States. He was part of a championship-calibre high school team in Lexington, Ky., before making the University of Kentucky team as a walk-on.

At Kentucky, Mabika was named Conference USA player of the year and co-defensive MVP. He started 53 of 62 career appearances, scored 10 goals (including two game-winners) and added two assists, while helping the Wildcats to record 28 shutouts.

Kentucky head coach Johan Cedergren called Mabika, also took penalties, “probably be one of the biggest steals in college soccer history.”

Mabika was taken by Miami in the first round (26th overall) in the 2021 MLS SuperDraft. He spent the 2021 season with Inter Miami CF II before signing a first-team contract in January 2022, making 18 appearances across all competitions in his first season with the club.

He made his international debut for Zambia in a 3-1 win over Congo in a friendly March 25, 2022.

Toronto FC’s current roster for 2024

Goalkeepers: Luka Gavran, Sean Johnson.

Defenders: Kobe Franklin, Aimé Mabika, Shane O’Neill, Raoul Petretta, Sigurd Rosted, Luke Singh.

Midfielders: Latif Blessing, Alonso Coello Camarero, Jahkeele Marshall-Rutty, Jonathan Osorio, Brandon Servania.

Forwards: Ayo Akinola, Federico Bernardeschi, Adama Diomande, Lorenzo Insigne, Deandre Kerr, Cassius Mailula, Hugo Mbongue, Prince Owusu, Jordan Perruzza


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This report by The Canadian Press was first published Dec. 1, 2023