Toronto FC Unveils New AR-Powered Talent Scouting App

Players aged six and up can record a video of themselves performing certain drills, which are then evaluated by the app.

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Need to Know 

  • Toronto FC has released a new app designed to scout young talent.
  • Young athletes record themselves performing certain drills and upload the video to the app—called TFC Widenet—which then evaluates the athletes.
  • The app uses a phone’s camera to track the performance of two activities: a 20-meter sprint and a 200-meter shuttle.
  • The new app is a major part of MLSE’s digital innovation and a hopeful headstart in a post-pandemic world.

Analysis

Toronto FC has unveiled a new app designed to help the organization scout young talent. The app, called TFC Widenet, evaluates athletes aged six and up based on their speed and skill. 

Launched this week, the app is essentially “a pathway to become—potentially—a TFC player,” said Humza Teherany, chief technology and digital officer at Maple Leaf Sports & Entertainment, which owns Toronto FC.

The free app combines augmented reality with the phone’s camera to measure an athlete’s athletic ability, based on a 20-meter sprint and a 200-meter shuttle—two drills that can easily be done in a park or a gym. The athletes record themselves or have a friend film them while they perform the drills, then the app verifies the data and sends the information to TFC. Then, the information is entered into a leaderboard, which lets participants see how they fare against other players of the same age and gender.  

The app is the result of MLSE’s desire to harness advanced technology for the benefit of the league and its teams—and development was fast-tracked due to the pressures of the pandemic. 

“How do we find talent? How do we do it differently than everybody else? How do we get access to every kid in the country, maybe even every kid in the world, leveraging our digital capabilities,” said Teherany. “And then we went to work on the tech.”

The app was developed by MLSE Digital Labs, the football league’s in-house digital team and the “the largest and deepest technology organization in pro sports”, according to Teherany. 

MLSE has increased its focus on digital innovation in recent years, and in 2018 hired Teherany to build an internal team with a focus on digital. Since then, the team has grown to over 100 staffers, specializing in user experience, data science, development, and more. 

“We are the only [sports] organization that has 100 people waking up every day thinking about technology, innovation, and disruption, and how to make our company better and smarter every day,” Teherany told Digital last year.

The team has worked to build MLSE apps in over 150 countries, has made the Raptors’ app one of the best in the NBA, and has partnered with major brands like Uber and McDonalds. 

The new talent scouting app signals the next phase of innovation for MLSE and a headstart in a post-pandemic world. 

“It’s frankly a very new world,” said Teherany. “And the fact is if you’re not all-in with digital, you’re going to be playing catch-up.”

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