Just days after disputing reports that he was planning to leave Toronto FC, and less than 24 hours after publicly declaring his desire to "stay here", Tim Leiweke has told his board of directors that he plans to stick around no longer than June 2015 and is open to leaving as soon as a successor is found.
This story is obviously bigger than just Toronto FC -- Leiweke was the CEO of Maple Leaf Sports & Entertainment, the company that owns the NHL's Maple Leafs and the NBA's Raptors -- but they are the team that will be most directly affected. It was TFC who has seemingly benefitted the most from Leiweke's short-lived time in charge.
Leiweke came to a TFC team that had failed to make the playoffs in any of their seven MLS seasons, something no other team has ever come close to accomplishing. For all the fan support and all the money TFC had spent, there had been precious little to show for it. There was a growing sense that no matter TFC did, it was doomed to fail.
Almost as soon as Leiweke took over, the narrative started to change. The man who most famously brought David Beckham to MLS immediately set about bringing big names to TFC. First it was Jermaine Defoe, a player still in the prime of his career and fighting for a spot on the England national team. It was legitimately a "bloody big deal." It turned out only to be a precursor to an even bigger signing, though.
When word first surfaced that Michael Bradley was considering a move to TFC, it sent shockwaves through the league. While Bradley may not have had the raw star power of Beckham, he was arguably the best American player and still just 26 years old. Convincing Bradley to sign may have been an even bigger coup than landing Beckham in a pure footballing sense.
Even though Toronto FC hasn't exactly taken MLS by storm, they do seem to be a reasonable bet to finally end their playoff drought. Leiweke may not have totally fixed TFC's problems, but he will almost certainly leave them in a better situation than he arrived.
There will surely be those in Toronto who feel Leiweke is leaving before he's come close to finishing the job. That's fair, but perhaps more than TFC in particular, Leiweke's decision is a blow to MLS. No one has been more successful in helping to bring in big names and raise the level of talent than Leiweke. That he'll be leaving just as a new CBA -- one that will presumably allow for more bold moves like the ones Leiweke is known for -- is a bit curious and disappointing from a league perspective. No one has been able to work magic quite like Leiweke. He will surely be missed.