Major League Soccer’s three Canadian teams will initially play against each other in Canada during the league’s return to home markets, it has been announced.
The move comes as a result of the Canada-United States border being closed for non-essential travel until August 21 in the wake of the global Covid-19 pandemic.
Montreal Impact, Toronto FC, and Vancouver Whitecaps FC will each play the other two Canadian teams three times, for a total of six games, during phase one of the MLS’s return-to-play schedule, which runs through September 16.
Teams will take chartered flights while matches between Montreal and Toronto will involve the visiting club arrive in the host market on matchday and depart after the game.
Due to the long distance between Vancouver and the other two clubs, the Whitecaps will open their schedule with an extended road trip in which the club will play matches in Toronto on August 18 and 21, and in Montreal on August 25.
All nine matches will be aired domestically on TSN and all six Montreal Impact matches will air on TVA Sports. They will also be shown on ESPN+ in the United States.
It is unclear if fans will be allowed at games.
In addition to games being part of the MLS regular-season standings, the Canadian team which earns the most points in this phase will qualify for the 2020 Canadian Championship final.
The showpiece game will be a one-off match against the winner of the Canadian Premier League’s Island Games. The victor will qualify for the 2021 Concacaf Champions League.
The three Canadian teams are scheduled to relocate to the US during the second phase of MLS’s return to play. It has been reported that both Toronto FC and Montreal Impact will be based at New York Red Bulls venue Red Bull Arena and the Vancouver Whitecaps will be based at Portland Timbers’ Providence Park.
“We are thrilled to continue our regular season in a very unique all-Canadian series with added incentive,” said Whitecaps chief executive Axel Schuster.