The USL Championship is back after a four-month hiatus caused by the COVID-19 pandemic. The league plans to restart the 2020 season on Saturday, July 11 after reaching an agreement with the USL Players Association.
Last Friday, the USL Championship announced the groups that will battle for a place in the 2020 USL Championship in both the Eastern and Western Conferences.
Miami FC is in Group H, with Charleston Battery, Tampa Bay Rowdies and Atlanta Utd.2
The official format of the Championship has been altered for the restart. Instead of trying to proceed with the schedule that had begun back in March, the modified format calls for 16 total games (with the first match or two that each team played back in March counting), with 35 teams being divided into regional groups consisting of four or five teams.
Unlike MLS, the USL Championship will have its teams play in their home markets (for now behind closed doors), in order to reduce travel expenses and provide greater protection for the players as part of the league’s safety protocols which were recently adopted and approved.
Last Tuesday, the league confirmed it will temporarily adopt IFAB’s guidance to allow five substitutions per match (ironically, the USL allowed five subs until the 2017 season).
The Western Conference Groups are as follows:
Group A: Portland Timbers 2, Reno 1868 FC, Sacramento Republic FC, Tacoma Defiance
Group B: LA Galaxy II, Las Vegas Lights FC, Orange County SC, Phoenix Rising FC, San Diego Loyal SC
Group C: Colorado Springs Switchbacks FC, El Paso Locomotive FC, New Mexico United, Real Monarchs SLC
Group D: Austin Bold FC, OKC Energy FC, Rio Grande Valley FC, San Antonio FC, FC Tulsa
Each team in Group A and Group C will play its fellow group members four times during the regular season. Meanwhile, each team in Group B and Group D will play its fellow group members three times. The remaining games will be played against teams that fall within a similar geographic region.
The Eastern Conference Groups are as follows:
Group E: Indy Eleven, Louisville City FC, Saint Louis FC, Sporting Kansas City II
Group F: Hartford Athletic, Loudoun United FC, New York Red Bulls II, Philadelphia Union II, Pittsburgh Riverhounds SC
Group G: Birmingham Legion FC, Charlotte Independence, Memphis 901 FC, North Carolina FC
Group H: Atlanta United 2, Charleston Battery, Miami FC, Tampa Bay Rowdies
The teams placed in Groups E, G, and H will play its fellow group members four times during the regular season. Meanwhile, each team in Group F will play its fellow group members three times. The remaining games will be played against teams that fall within a similar geographic region.
The final return-to-play plan was the result of almost two months of dialogue with its player’s association starting in May. Most of the return-to-play protocols to ensure the safety of players were straightforward. The sticking point was a request for players to take wage cuts. After a series of proposals and counterproposals, management (the league) and labour (the players) struck an accord agreed to terms that would see players’ wages remain intact.
More to follow as the season approaches.