Following the conclusion of the MLS is Back Tournament, MLS will continue its 25th season by having teams compete in their local markets, the league announced on Saturday.
Thus, D.C. United will be returning to Audi Field for regular-season action. The team will open up on the road against FC Cincinnati on Friday, August 21, before having its home opener on Tuesday, August 25, against the New England Revolution. For at least the beginning of the season, no fans will be in attendance.
“I would like to thank everyone involved with the MLS is Back Tournament -- players, coaches, staff and partners -- for their role in helping us recapture the momentum we had at the beginning of our 25th season and reconnect with our passionate fans,” MLS Commissioner Don Garber said in a statement. “Since suspending play in March, we have been working on plans to play as much of our season as possible, beginning with the tournament in Florida and resuming in our local markets following the competition. We remain focused on the health and safety of our players, coaches and staff, and look forward to continuing our season in our home markets.”
Though the league is planning to allow teams to travel after holding the tournament in a bubble, it doesn't mean protocols will lessen in the midst of the ongoing coronavirus pandemic. Players will continue to be tested every other day and are strongly advised to limit exposure outside of team facilities and mandated areas.
However, a major complication is how the three Canadian teams (Toronto, Montreal and Vancouver) will handle the season. Much like how the Toronto Blue Jays had to relocate to Buffalo to play the MLB season, Canada still has tight restrictions in place when it comes to leaving the country and coming back.
MLS states that it will have a clearer picture of the schedule in September, but initially plans to have U.S. teams only square off against one another. That may lead to the three teams north of the border only playing one another for the beginning of the season. PLans there remain uncertain.
As it stands now, the league is set to kick off on August 12 and each team will play 18 games. Decision Day will be on November 8, and 18 teams will enter the playoffs. That number is four more than last season. The MLS Cup will take place on December 12.
The MLS is Back Tournament is set to come to a conclusion on August 11 and the Portland Timbers will take on Orlando City for the title on August 11. D.C. United did not reach the knockout stage after finishing last in their group.
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