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USL Championship announces 2020 competition format

Photo courtesy Philadelphia Union II

The United Soccer League Championship today announced the competition format for the balance of its 2020 season.

Citing geographic proximity as a governing principle, the league’s 35 teams will be divided into eight groups. Five will have four teams each, and the other three will have five each. Groups A, B, C and D will be announced Thursday. Groups E through H will be announced on Friday.

There is no official word yet on either Union II’s group or its fellow group members. The four teams in closest physical proximity (with Google Maps mileages in parentheses) are New York Red Bulls II (105), Loudon United (159), Hartford (224), and Pittsburgh (308). Whether Union II’s group will have four or five members is not yet known.

The four-team groups will play each other four times for a total of twelve games. The five-team groups will play each other three times, for a total of twelve also. The remaining two, three, or four games will be against teams closer rather than farther away. Since Union II has already played Loudon at home, if the two sides are in the same group Philadelphia would have 11 group games remaining and four from its group’s “near-abroad.” The next four closest are North Carolina, Charlotte, Indianapolis and Louisville. 

The season will end on the weekend of October 2nd to 4th, so Union II will play 15 games in twelve weeks, barring unexpected interruptions. That pace is approximately the same as that of the original schedule. The intent is that each team have a balanced home and away schedule. But permission already exists to unbalance it if the virus complicates access to suitable venues. 

The top two teams in each group will make the playoffs for a total of 16, eight from the East and eight from the West. They will start with the conference quarter finals. The playoffs will be single-elimination. No dates are mentioned in the announcement. 

Update: USLC’s health and safety protocols were announced after this article was posted.  Noteworthy points:

  • Where feasible buses seem to be used not planes, and multiple buses may be needed to maintain social distancing.
  • Players will have individual hotel rooms unless they are already roommates, for example in team-provided housing.
  • Players are required to stay home except when practicing or playing.  
  • And if local rules are more stringent they take precedence.

The other details reflect the practices already familiar from other previously announced plans.

 

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