Tim Leiweke, president and CEO of Maple Leaf Sports and Entertainment speaks to The Empire Club of Canada in Toronto on Tuesday, Oct. 29, 2013. Leiweke spoke about the state of the Toronto Maple Leafs, Raptors and also the struggling Toronto FC MLS franchise. Nathan Denette/Canadian Press
Toronto FC will end its seven-year post-season drought and make the Major League Soccer playoffs next season, MLSE CEO Tim Leiweke promised Tuesday.
The underachieving franchise finished 17th in the 19-team league with a 6-17-11 record this season.
"Our soccer team is absolutely in complete disarray," said Leiweke, drawing laughs during an Empire Club luncheon speech about the future of MLSE teams and plans to improve them.
But the Maple Leafs Sports and Entertainment boss said change is coming.
"The team we turn the quickest will be TFC and we'll turn them next year," he said.
"Mark it down, write it down, film it … We're going to turn TFC around and we're going to make the playoffs next year. We know where we're headed, we know how to get there. We've been given the resources of this ownership group and we will get to the right place."
Leiweke, who brought David Beckham to the Los Angeles Galaxy, says he knows how to work the designated player rules in the league.
The soccer team has money to add designated players and still have about a third of its salary cap to sign two or three veteran MLS players.
"I could not be more excited about the parade route and we're going to throw you one, I promise"- MLSE CEO Tim Leiweke on the potential of the Leafs winning the Stanley Cup
In detailing the MLSE clubs and their chances of success, he pointed to the hockey club first.
"The Leafs are close," he said.
Like the New York Yankees are to baseball and the Dallas Cowboys to football, the Leafs must become "the greatest hockey team in the history of the National Hockey League."
"Toronto is the heart and soul of the great game of hockey," he said.
Leiweke made headlines after taking over in July when he said he already had a championship parade route in his mind for the Leafs.
He did not back down from that Tuesday.
"I could not be more excited about the parade route and we're going to throw you one, I promise," he said.
Championships, he said are "not an unreasonable expectation," at MLSE.
Leiweke ruffled feathers early in his tenure when he suggested some of the photos of past Leafs greats should be taken down at the Air Canada Centre.
"No disrespect to the history and tradition of the 100 years of the Toronto Maple Leafs or any of the great players that have put on that jersey," he said Tuesday. "But these players know it's now time to put their pictures up on the wall. It's time for us to hang Stanley Cup banners."
As for the Raptors, he said it was tough to build an NBA team on the fly because of salary cap restrictions.
Luck and skill are needed in drafting players, plus intelligence in signing other players.
"To be honest with you, we haven't done that here. And I'm not blaming anybody. Now the blame's on us."
He dismissed the belief that NBA players don't want to come to Toronto. And he said the current roster is "ticked off" that some pundits are already writing them off.
"They're out to prove something this year," he said of the Raptors, who open their season Wednesday.
Build a winning culture and players will come to Toronto, he added.
On other matters, Leiweke said: