MLB 2020 schedule includes earliest domestic start ever

Major League Baseball in 2020 will have the earliest domestic start to the season in league history, with the now-completed schedule for next year showing all 30 teams beginning play on March 26.

The schedule for next year continues recent MLB practice of teams beginning play on the final Thursday of March, a shift from prior April-based openers that allows for several more off days for teams during the course of the season. After starting domestic play on March 28 this year, the natural shift of the calendar and 2020 being a leap year will move that final Thursday in March two days earlier. 

MLB in several prior years, including 2019, have started regular season play on earlier dates, but in international venues such as Tokyo and Sydney. Never before has play started as early as this in the US or Canada. 

The early start to the 2020 MLB schedule is also driven in part by a desire to complete the postseason prior to the 2020 US Presidential Election on Nov. 3. Game 7 of next year’s World Series is tentatively slated for Oct. 28. The 2021 MLB schedule already under early construction will likely not have regular season play begin until April 1, with both the election not being a key factor that year and the league set to revive the World Baseball Classic in March 2021.

The league will again in 2020 pursue an aggressive series of special-event games, including the recently announced contest for next August between the Chicago White Sox and New York Yankees at the Field of Dreams filming site in Dyersville, Iowa, and a return to London in June for a two-game set between the St. Louis Cardinals and Chicago Cubs. A three-game set will be held in April in San Juan, Puerto Rico, involving the Miami Marlins and New York Mets.

MLB next August will also make a fourth trip to Williamsport, Pennsylvania, site of the Little League World Series, to play the MLB Little League Classic between the Baltimore Orioles and Boston Red Sox. 

Announcements remain pending on other international games next year beyond the return to London. The collective bargaining agreement between the MLB and the MLB Players Association also calls for games in Mexico. A planned Opening Day game in Asia has already been scrapped

The final day of the 2020 regular season will be Sept. 27, also two days earlier than the comparable end of the 2019 season. The interleague division pairings in year’s schedule are American League East-National League Central, AL Central-NL West, and AL West-NL East.

Like the schedule currently being played this season, MLB next season will also focus on slating divisional games primarily at the beginning and end of the season to allow for easier reschedulings in the event of weather postponements. Both Opening Day and the regular season finale will feature 12 divisional games among the 15 being played each day.

MLB again conducted in-depth interviews with each club president during the year-long construction process of the 2020 schedule, continuing a new method first used a year ago that expanded significantly from prior reliance on written questionnaires for club-level input. The league also asked each club to highlight their most-desired summer dates and used that as a key anchor for building out the master schedule.

“We got a deeper level of engagement, and I think that was due in part to the teams getting more comfortable with the questions and the input we were looking for,” said Chris Marinak, MLB executive vice president of strategy, technology and innovation, and overseer of the league schedule.

Club input also has driven MLB to again heighten the number of two-series homesteads in 2020, Marinak said. Next year’s schedule will contain 73 percent of all homestands lasting two series, up from 61 percent in 2018, as teams have increasingly professed that as the preferred length of time to be either at home or on the road.

The league next year will additionally continue a new practice of slating some two-game weekend series with Friday off-days, a move first tested in 2019 that represented a marked departure from usual scheduling. The goal there is mainly to focus fan attention on key interleague matchups toward higher-attended weekend games.

This also marks the earliest point in a MLB season the league has released the following year’s schedule. The 2019 schedule was released on Aug. 22 last year. The earlier release period gives clubs more time to begin advance ticket sales for 2020.