Major League Soccer has announced its plans to restart the 2020 season, with the league’s teams playing 18 regular season games following the conclusion of the MLS is Back Tournament, with 18 teams qualifying for the 2020 MLS playoffs.
The MLS is Back Tournament concludes on Tuesday, with the Portland Timbers facing Orlando City, and league officials unveiled their plan to have the regular season return, beginning on August 12 and a regular season running through November 8th, with a schedule build around regional match-ups.
“Since suspending play in March, we have been working on plans to play as much of our season as possible, beginning with the tournament in Florida and resuming in our local markets following the competition,” MLS commissioner Don Garber said in a league-issued press release. “We remain focused on the health and safety of our players, coaches and staff, and look forward to continuing our season in our home markets.”
The majority of the matches in local markets will be played without fans in attendance, though MLS and club leadership are working with local health authorities and government officials on a plan for limited capacity at certain games where allowed.
Phase one of the league’s new schedule consists of teams playing six matches
The league’s three Canadian teams have not been included in the league’s initial schedule due to travel restrictions between the United States and Canada, but MLS is working with Toronto FC, the Montreal Impact and Vancouver Whitecaps to formulate a plan for them to play.
FC Dallas and Nashville SC, the two teams forced to miss the MLS is Back Tournament due to large COVID-19 outbreaks, will play an additional three matches against each other to make up for the matches they missed by skipping the tournament. The first two games are set for Aug. 12 and 16, with a third game to be scheduled in the fall.
The MLS playoffs will consist of 18 teams rather than the 14 which made up the 2019 playoffs, and the MLS Cup Final has been scheduled for December 12, returning the league’s championship game to December after the league originally planned to have it take place in November.
MLS also laid out its plans for testing for COVID-19 and for trying to keep the league’s 26 teams safe, including having chartered flights and buses be the main mode of transportation:
As with the MLS is Back Tournament, COVID-19 testing protocols will again play an important role in MLS’ competition framework. MLS continues to work closely with the league’s infectious disease advisors as well as advisors for the MLSPA on the plan for testing. All clubs are forming testing partnerships with a local certified lab, and all players, technical staff, and essential club staff will be tested every other day, including the day before each match day. Also, guidelines will be provided to players, coaches and essential staff to avoid the risk of contracting and spreading COVID-19 during their time away from club facilities.
In addition to adhering to health, safety and medical protocols, another focus of the new schedule is efficient travel. Teams will take chartered flights, or buses, and for the majority of road trips will arrive in the host market on matchday and depart after the match later that evening.
After FC Dallas and Nashville SC plays its two makeup matches, the MLS new schedule kicks into full gear on August 20, with the New York Red Bulls playing host to New York City FC and the Columbus Crew taking on the Chicago Fire.
MLS will feature a full slate of rivalry matches on August 22, with Los Angeles FC playing host to the LA Galaxy, Inter Miami taking on Orlando City, the Colorado Rapids hosting Real Salt Lake and Atlanta United taking on Nashville SC.
The Seattle Sounders and Portland Timbers meet the next day, on August 23.