After reports and rumors have hinted at it, Major League Soccer has officially announced that the 2020 regular season will resume in the home markets of its member clubs in August, following the conclusion of the MLS is Back Tournament. Orlando City’s return to regular-season play will take place Saturday, Aug. 22 at 8 p.m. at Inter Miami CF.
Each team will play 18 more regular-season matches in 2020, for a total of 23 — two played before the break and three each during the group stage of MLS is Back — except FC Dallas and Nashville SC, which will play each other three additional times to bridge the gap in games played. Decision Day will take place Nov. 8, with 18 teams qualifying for the 2020 postseason. The Audi MLS Cup playoffs will begin Nov. 20, with MLS Cup set for Dec. 12.
The league’s press release said that “the majority of the matches will be played without fans in attendance.” However, it does indicate that clubs located in markets with lower restrictions might host matches with limited capacity attendance. The league is working with the clubs and local authorities on a plan to allow some fans in markets where it is permitted.
As for the COVID-19 pandemic itself — which shut down the league in March after only two match weekends — the league is working with its infectious disease advisors and the MLS Players Association on a testing plan.
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 matchday. 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.
The biggest hurdle remaining is how to deal with the league’s Canadian sides.
Due to travel restrictions between the U.S. and Canada, Major League Soccer is working with the league’s three Canadian clubs regarding plans to continue the regular season. More details on schedules for the Canadian teams will be announced in the near future.
Travel will be an issue, getting easier in some respects, but tougher in others.
Teams will take chartered flights, or buses, and for the majority of road trips they will arrive in the host market on matchday and depart after the match later in the day.
While allowing chartered flights is a positive step, arriving on match day and heading back out on the road after the game that same day is not an ideal situation. It will make MLS road games even tougher than they already are.
Still, it will be exciting to have league games back. Orlando City’s run in the MLS is Back Tournament, coupled with an expanded playoff field, will have Orlando fans newly optimistic about the 2020 season.
The league’s return to play will be announced in phases, with the matches in phase one already scheduled and announced. Here is a list of scheduled Orlando City regular-season phase one matches to date, all of which are against Inter Miami, Atlanta United, and Nashville SC (all times eastern):
- Saturday, Aug. 22 — at Inter Miami CF, 8 p.m. (FOX 35 Plus)
- Wednesday, Aug. 26 — vs. Nashville SC, 7:30 p.m. (FOX 35 Plus)
- Saturday, Aug. 29 — at Atlanta United, 3:30 p.m. (Univision)
- Wednesday, Sept. 2 — at Nashville SC, 8:30 p.m. (FOX 35 Plus)
- Sunday, Sept. 6 — vs. Atlanta United, 7:30 p.m. (FOX 35 Plus)
- Saturday, Sept. 12 — vs. Inter Miami, 7:30 p.m. (FOX 35 Plus)
We will keep you updated on details of Orlando City’s return to play as they are announced, including any plans to allow fans to attend.