Major League Soccer has announced its plan to return to play in home markets, with D.C. United facing a slate of games that will almost entirely see the Black-and-Red stick to the Atlantic coast. United’s schedule during the first phase of in-market play is as follows:
- August 21 - at FC Cincinnati
- August 25 - vs. New England Revolution
- August 30 - at Philadelphia Union
- September 2 - at New York Red Bulls
- September 6 - vs. New York City FC
- September 12 - vs. New York Red Bulls
Local broadcast details for these games are not yet settled.
In addition to the first phase of a three-phase schedule plan, MLS has announced that the 2020 postseason will be expanded to 18 teams. With the conferences unbalanced at the moment due to Nashville’s temporary placement in the Eastern Conference, that means 10 teams in the East and 8 teams in the West will qualify.
United’s games are all scheduled to take place at Audi Field. In a team release, the club spelled out that the current plan is to host games without fans, but that this could change in the future:
D.C. United will begin the continuation of the Major League Soccer season at Audi Field without fans in attendance. As the 2020 season progresses, the club will continue to evaluate the possibility of welcoming fans to attend future matches at Audi Field this season. All decisions will be made in conjunction with local government and health officials and the club’s engagement with its members.
As the 2020 season progresses, the club will continue to evaluate the possibility of welcoming fans to attend future matches at Audi Field this season. All decisions will be made in conjunction with our local government and health officials and our engagement with our members.
All MLS clubs will play 18 regular season games, save for FC Dallas and Nashville SC. Those clubs, who had to depart the MLS is Back Tournament before it began due to positive Covid-19 tests, will have to play three more games than the rest of the league to make up for not having group stage matches. Dallas will host the expansion side this coming Wednesday — one day after the MLS is Back final — and again on the following Sunday, with the third game between those two clubs being played in Nashville later this year.
However, not every team’s schedule is clear. The league’s three Canadian teams, due to international travel restrictions, cannot come to the United States to play games. The league’s announcement of the schedule simply states that “details on schedules for the Canadian teams will be announced in the near future.”
While the league says the remainder of the schedule is in the works for a September announcement, there were at least some important milestone dates listed. The playoffs will begin on November 20, with MLS Cup scheduled for December 12. With 18 teams making the playoffs, the postseason will almost certainly consist of single-elimination games and short rest from start to finish.
The lack of clarity extends to testing protocols, which according to the release are a work in progress. Clubs are to partner with local testing labs, with players and staff due to be tested every other day (including the day before all games). The release did not state how individual clubs are supposed to ensure the sort of immediate turnaround on tests that allowed the MLS is Back bubble to function.
Teams will be required to take charter flights or private buses to all games, with “the majority” of road games to arrive and depart on the day of the game, thus avoiding hotel stays.
Oddly enough, United’s schedule will begin right where it left off before the coronavirus pandemic forced MLS to shut down. D.C.’s only prior trip to Cincinnati ended in a 4-1 victory, but since then Cincy has appointed a head coach, fired him, appointed an interim coach, and then hired a new full-time boss in Jaap Stam.