MLS season to kickoff April 3

Major League Soccer announced Monday that the 2021 MLS season will begin on April 3. From the league press release:

“Major League Soccer today announced the 2021 MLS season will begin on Saturday, April 3 and feature 34 matches for each of the league’s 27 clubs. MLS’ 26th regular season will conclude on MLS Decision Day, November 7, and the Audi 2021 MLS Cup Playoffs will begin November 19. MLS Cup will be played on Saturday, December 11.

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Clubs will be permitted to open preseason training on February 22, six weeks prior to MLS is Back opening weekend.  In accordance with MLS health and safety protocols, players will be required to quarantine and conduct individual trainings upon reporting back to their clubs.

The 2021 season will feature the debut of the league’s 27th club, Austin FC, and their new world-class Q2 Stadium.  MLS also will see the opening of two new soccer stadiums in Ohio this season for FC Cincinnati and Columbus Crew SC. In addition to regular season matches, the 26th season will include the MLS All-Star Game presented by Target, Campeones Cup, and Leagues Cup during the late summer window.  MLS clubs also will participate in the Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup, Canadian Championship and Scotiabank Concacaf Champions League in 2021. 

The league also anticipates dozens of players competing for their respective national teams in competitions such as FIFA World Cup qualifying, Concacaf Nations League Finals, the Concacaf Gold Cup, Copa América, the European Championship and the Summer Olympics. 

With Austin FC joining MLS, the 2021 season will feature 27 clubs, 14 in the Eastern Conference and 13 in the Western Conference.

Western ConferenceEastern Conference
Austin FC Atlanta United
Colorado Rapids Chicago Fire FC
FC Dallas   FC Cincinnati
Houston Dynamo FCColumbus Crew SC
Sporting Kansas City  D.C. United
LA Galaxy Inter Miami CF 
Los Angeles Football Club CF Montréal 
Minnesota United FC Nashville SC
Portland TimbersNew England Revolution
Real Salt Lake  New York City FC
San Jose Earthquakes New York Red Bulls
Seattle Sounders FC Orlando City SC
Vancouver Whitecaps FCPhiladelphia Union
Toronto FC

Due to travel restrictions between the U.S. and Canada, Major League Soccer continues to work with the league’s three Canadian clubs regarding plans for the 2021 regular season. More details on plans for the Canadian teams will be announced in the near future.

Similar to the 2020 MLS season, COVID-19 testing protocols will again play an important role in MLS’ competition framework. MLS continues to work closely with the league and MLSPA’s infectious disease advisors on health and safety protocols, including testing. During the regular season, all players, technical staff and essential club staff will continue to be tested every other day, including the day before each match day.  In addition, clubs will take chartered flights for all road trips until further notice.

MLS continues to meet with the Major League Soccer Players Association and players to discuss working together to put MLS on a secure footing given the unprecedented impact of COVID-19. On January 5 MLS presented the MLSPA with a proposal that committed to paying the players 100% of their salaries this year, in return for a two-year extension of the MLS Collective Bargaining Agreement. The MLSPA provided a response to the league’s proposal January 23.  Although no agreement has been reached, MLS is committed to meet as many times as necessary with the MLSPA in the coming days to finalize an agreement.

Major League Soccer will announce the complete 2021 regular season schedule, including the national broadcast schedule for the league’s media partners in the U.S. and Canada, in the coming weeks.

Worth pointing out from the release that MLS and the MLS Players Association continue to negotiate, with the league receiving a response on January 23. Although no further announcements regarding the negotiations have been made, the announcement seems to indicate that MLS feels confident an agreement will be reached. It could alternatively be a negotiation tactic from the league, but it’s more concrete information than they’ve released to date.

The league also intends to hold an MLS All-Star match this summer. The 2020 edition was set to be the first matchup between MLS and a team of All-Stars from Mexico’s Liga MX, but was cancelled due to Covid-19. The two sides will face off for the first time this summer.

Assuming an agreement is reached with MLSPA, training camps will open on February 22, giving clubs a typical six week preseason before the league kicks off.

Nashville will continue to play in the Eastern Conference after switching conferences mid-season last year. Despite a full international calendar, US Open Cup, and CONCACAF club competitions, the actual league schedule will look fairly normal. The 34 game schedule will be played in a window of 218 days, the same timeframe that was scheduled for the 2020 season before Covid hit.

We’ll have more details on the final schedule when it’s released.

Author: Ben Wrightis the Director of Soccer Content and a Senior MLS Contributor for Broadway Sports covering Nashville SC and the US National Team. Previously Ben was the editor and a founder of Speedway Soccer, where he has covered Nashville SC and their time in USL before journeying to Major League Soccer since 2018. Raised in Louisville, KY Ben grew up playing before a knee injury ended his competitive career. When he is not talking soccer he is probably producing music, drinking coffee or hanging out with his wife and kids. Mastodon

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