The return of professional soccer in the United States is set to continue after the second-tier United Soccer League Championship’s board of governors voted in favor of resuming the 2020 season, with a tentative start date of July 11.
The announcement was short on details, however, with the competition format, scheduling, and broadcast details not disclosed. According to reports, the USL Championship will not return in a hub format, with its 35 teams expected to play in their own venues.
It has also been reported that a third of USL Championship teams voted against returning to play. Furthermore, no agreement has been reached with the USL Players Association about a return-to-play proposal.
“Today, the league notified us that their USL Championship Board of Governors elected to pursue a return to play for the 2020 Championship season with a provision start date of July 11,” the USLPA said in the statement. “While there has been no agreement reached regarding proposed economic relief or return to play protocols, we view today’s vote as a positive first step for the league in articulating what a season may look like. Players remain hopeful for a continuation of the 2020 season. We continue to work with all players to ensure that any potential return to play is done in a manner that is safe and responsible.”
USL president Jake Edwards tweeted: “Very proud of the commitment shown today to bring soccer back to USL Championship communities across the country. Work remains though and we’ll continue to push forward with our clubs and the USLPA to ensure the health and safety of all involved. A positive step forward.”
The USL Championship was suspended in March after just one round of action due to the coronavirus. During the hiatus, the USL organization created two esports competitions to help fill the void, the “USL eCup: Fifa20 Edition” and the “USL eCup: Rocket League Edition”.
As revealed by SportBusiness, the USL furloughed some staff in its head office in Tampa, Florida, to help mitigate financial losses. The USL League Two season has been called off while it is unclear what the fate is of the third-tier USL League One.
Elsewhere, the third-tier National Independent Soccer Association announced it intends to stage its 2020 Fall Season. The league was forced to cancel its spring season in March due to the Covid-19 pandemic.
NISA will initially begin play in regionalized competition from August, with teams split into an Eastern Conference and Western Conference. Each club will play every other club in their conference twice, once at home and once away. There will then be a single-site tournament held in late October, which will determine the Fall champion.
The National Women’s Soccer League has already announced plans for a summer tournament in Utah, although OL Reign and US Women’s National Team superstar Megan Rapinoe has opted to skip the quarantined event.
Meanwhile, Major League Soccer is poised to announce its own summer tournament in Orlando, Florida, following an agreement this week with the MLS Players Association. The winner of the competition will receive a place in the Concacaf Champions League, according to reports.
MLS clubs have now been allowed to take part in full-team training provided a specific set of criteria is met, the league announced.