How the 2020 USL season could shape out

With the United States and the world entering its second month of stay at home orders due to the COVID-19 pandemic there hasn’t been any professional sports played since the middle of March. The hope for everyone is that the pandemic will be under control soon and we can return to some sort of normalcy before the pandemic hit. Many leagues including the USL are running out of time to complete a full season, but there is a chance a shorten season could still happen in 2020 for the leagues that started in spring and summer.

The USL was able to kickoff the first week of the season and most clubs were able to get at least one match in, with a couple playing two and some having yet to start the season. Had the pandemic not hit and we had the season continue, we’d be about seven matches into the season. As of right now, the USL has a training moratorium in place until May 4th. Assuming we get the go ahead from the appropriate authorities, matches would likely begin the week of May 10th. This would give clubs anywhere from 7 to 10 days to get back up to match ready status. The matches postponed would be moved to mid week and open dates available, many teams would have multiple weeks where they would play two matches in a week.

Some experts on the matter of the pandemic think it won’t be safe for mass gatherings until July or August at the earliest and that will leave the USL with how to schedule it’s season, playoffs and championships. The season usually ends mid November and player contacts expire on November 30th, unless a player is on a multi year contract, which are very few.

If the season isn’t able to get back underway until mid-summer there will be a few solutions that USL are probably planning on in the form of some sort of shortened season. We think we can bring a logical solution as to what a possible shorten season could look like and still bring massive interest to the league for 2020. Whether or not fans will return to the stadiums this summer remains to be seen, but we assume the USL will have a season.

POSSIBLE SOLUTION

Have a shortened season and align the teams similar to what Major League Baseball is planning to do. Step one, treat the first week of the regular season as preseason and start over. The league could be broken down in groups where clubs would be placed in groups regionally. It would be similar to the Champions League or Euro qualifying for the World Cup. With the USL having 17 clubs int he Eastern Conference and 18 in the Western Conference, each conference would be broken down to six groups. There would be three groups in each conference, with six clubs in each group with the exception of one group having 5 clubs in the Eastern Conference. The regular season would be 20 matches long plus playoffs. They would be grouped regionally, this is what it could look like.

Eastern Conference

Group 1

Hartford Athletic

New York Red Bulls II

Philadelphia Union II

Loudoun United

Pittsburgh Riverhounds

Group 2

North Carolina FC

Charlotte Independence

Charleston Battery

Atlanta United II

Miami FC

Tampa Bay Rowdies

Group 3

Indy Eleven

Louisville City FC

St. Louis FC

Sporting KC II

Memphis 901 FC

Birmingham Legion

Western Conference

Group 4

Tulsa FC

Oklahoma Energy FC

Austin Bold

San Antonio FC

RGV FC Toros

El Paso Locomotive

Group 5

Colorado Switchbacks FC

New Mexico United

Phoenix Rising FC

Real Monarchs

Las Vegas Lights

Reno 1868 FC

Group 6

Tacoma Defiance

Portland Timbers II

Sacramento Republic

Los Angeles Galaxy II

Orange County SC

San Diego Loyal

With the groups in place, here is how the league could schedule games, each club plays the clubs in their groups four times (twice at home and twice away), Group 1 with five clubs would play each other 5 times. the regular season would be 20 matches. Each clubs gets about 10 home games. Also placing the clubs in regional groups will save the clubs money on travel. The two that would probably have the most difficult time would be Tacoma and Portland having to travel to Southern California but hey would stay on the West Coast. As for San Antonio FC, it would be all the regional rivals meaning every match is a de facto derby. Would make for entertaining soccer in a shortened season. The USL could still use a 10 club playoff format, with the top three clubs from each group advancing and the best fourth place club from each conference based on tie breakers would be the tenth team in. The top two clubs in each group would get the first round bye as the third place clubs and best fourth club would meet in the play-in round.

This could be the best possible solution to get the season underway for the USL once it begins, depending of course if the pandemic subsides and the authorities give the all clear. At this point (middle of April) sports is secondary as we are all concern for the health of everyone, but sports is what gives many people joy and a way to come together. It is a difficult time for us all, but we will get through this together.

USL is most likely working contingency plans for possible scenarios for a full or shortened season. The latest official statement was the extension of the moratorium to May 4th. We will have to wait and see what news will come in the next few weeks. What do you think, will we have a full or shortened season? Is our solution a workable solution for the season or are there other possibilities the USL is working on? Maybe you have an idea how the USL could play out the season, share with us your thoughts and as always follow us for all the latest on futbol in and around San Antonio.

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