USL eyes July resumption of 2020 season, may scrap U.S. Open Cup

San Diego Loyal SC first match crowd

We could see the USL Championship 2020 season resume and the USL League One schedule launch in July, with the possible elimination of the annual U.S. Open Cup competition.

Pro soccer in the United States has been hit hard by the coronavirus pandemic, with the MLS, USL Championship and USL League One seasons delayed and a moratorium on player training extended across the industry. While other sports have looked at launching play or staging playoffs in empty ballparks and arenas, that’s not a good option for MLS and unrealistic for USL Championship and USL League One: the pro soccer still relies heavily on gate revenues for survival. So right now the tentative plan is resume play sometime in July and possibly extend the season. Whether this will work or not is a matter of debate: California Gov. Gavin Newsom and Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti say a ban on gatherings will last at least through the summer, with Garcetti expecting a ban throughout the rest of 2020. The potential of a similar ban has been floated for New York City. So a July opening may be overly optimistic.

Even if play were to begin in July, it will be a tough task for the U.S. Open Cup competition to be held. First held in 1913, the U.S. Open Cup competition encompasses the top levels of soccer and represents the tradition of soccer in the United States. The U.S. Open Cup competition was slated to begin in March, but it’s on hold, and given the logistics, it’s highly unlikely to be held this year–when play does start, the remaining leagues are unlikely to give up any open date for U.S. Open competition. From Sports Illustrated:

This week, USL president Jake Edwards told Sports Illustrated that his organization, which governs three leagues, doesn’t expect to participate in this season’s tournament. He didn’t rule it out entirely, but was clear that for the USL Championship (second-tier pro), League One (third-tier pro) and League Two (amateur), saving as much of the 2020 regular season as possible had to be the priority. There are 42 USL teams entered in the Open Cup.

“The compression of the schedule when we return to play this year is going to be significant, and that presents huge challenges for our league. And our league, as we’ve said, is match-day revenue dependent,” Edwards explained. “We need to focus on the league matches, the regular season and postseason, as the priority for the health and long-term well-being of our clubs.”

Photo courtesy San Diego Loyal.

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