The USL Championship unveiled the format for the remainder of 2020 on Wednesday, which will include a total of 16 regular season matches for all competing teams. The 13-week season will span from July 11 and end October 2-4 with playoffs to follow.
After reports that several MLS-affiliated teams would not partake in the 2020 season surfaced recently, it appears that they were able to work something out with the USL after the league announced that all 35 teams plan to participate in the revised season.
In an effort to limit travel, the league will be split up into eight separate regionalized groups, with five groups of four teams and three groups of five teams. Each team will play 12 games from within their group while the remaining four games will be against teams that fall within a similar geographic region. Groups A-D will be announced Thursday while Groups E-H will be announced Friday.
The regular season will be over the span of 13 weeks, with the last weekend of play on October 2-4, which means that the league is aiming to return to play by July 11.
All matches played prior to the break will count as part of the regular season’s 16 game schedule. Since Sporting KC II lost their season opener to the Charlotte Independence in March, they will have 15 matches remaining, likely with 12 group games and three non-group games.
Following the rest of the world that is returning to play, the USL also confirmed that they will be implementing the five substitution rule. This allows each team up to five substitution a game, but no more than three stoppages from play.
The USL also announced that the top two teams from each group will qualify for the single-elimination 2020 USL Championship Playoffs, which will start with the Round of 16, where the group winners will be paired with the group runner’s up. The host of each game will be based on the best overall record.
What does this mean for SKC II?
It is highly likely that SKC II will find themselves playing St. Louis FC, and could also see Memphis 901, Louisville FC, and the Indy Eleven from the Eastern Conference or OKC Energy, FC Tulsa, or the Colorado Springs Switchbacks from the Western Conference.
Taking into consideration the likelihood of success, Sporting KC II would like to avoid the Indy Eleven, Memphis 901, and Louisville FC while all three Western Conference teams and St. Louis FC missed the playoffs in 2019.
As the USL affiliate to Sporting Kansas City, SKC II’s roster will look a lot different than previous seasons as long as the first team is in Orlando. Even after their return, I doubt that Peter Vermes will loan players to SKC II.
Players who have picked up some decent minutes with the reserves like Gianluca Busio, Jaylin Lindsey, and Wan Kuzain won’t be able to play with SKC II while Cam Duke seemed destined to play alongside his brother and SKC II captain Christian Duke. Without the ability to bolster the lineup with out-of-favor SKC first team players, head coach Paulo Nagamura will be forced to use his Sporting KC II talent more than ever before.
With so many moving pieces and many offseason acquisitions, now is a good time to brush up on the pre-COVID season preview.
[Editor: Fellow TBT writer Mike Kuhn mocked up this beautiful graphic with his potential guesses as to who will be paired with who. KC would have to be a big underdog if they are with Louisville City and Indy Eleven as only two teams advance.]