2020 USL Championship season set for tentative July 11 launch

USL Championship

We will see a tentative resumption of the 2020 USL Championship season on July 11 after the league and the USL Players Association agree on terms of play, but what that season looks like still remains to be finalized.

The league is currently determining a schedule, whether fans will be allowed and, if so, how many, and how league health guidelines will conform to local guidelines. In other sports, leagues have adopted “pod” schedules where three or more teams only play matches against other regional opponents: in the independent American Association baseball league, six teams are competing at three venues in Midwest states where gatherings are allowed, and other league teams are sitting out the season. This is an important factor to determine the 2020 USL Championship season: California’s San Diego County, for example, prohibits any gatherings at this time, which would seem to disallow any sort of match, and certainly not one with fans. On the other hand, Texas and Florida now allows sporting events at 50 percent of capacity, as long as social distancing protocols are in place.

So the specifics are still to come. From WMC5, speaking in the context of Memphis 901 FC returning to play:

“The reality is COVID-19 has impacted certain parts of the country significantly more than other parts of the country,” [USL VP of Communications and PR Ryan] Madden said. “We have to just be flexible and make sure we’re setting minimum standards and looking out for everyone’s health and wellness.”

According to Madden, the response has been positive. Fans and teams are just excited to return in the first place. The schedule might look different too.

“We’ve also considered changing our traditional format, whether that’s regionalizing competition structures, some other sort of unique things that limit travel, maximize games and look after health and wellness,” he said. “So I can’t give you a specific number of games, I can tell you it’s going to be less than a normal season. You may see a certain opponent more than you normally would, but that’s better than no soccer.”

And you may not see every team participating in USL Championship or USL League One, per the Washington Post. MLS teams have looked at skipping their USL commitments for 2020 as a way to save money.

Still to come: a long-term collective bargaining agreement for the league and USLPA. And also under discussion: how USL League One will look like when play launches July 18.

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