Sporting Kansas City flamed out of the
COVID Cup MLS is Back Tournament with a 3-1 loss to the Philadelphia Union on Thursday. There are real questions to be answered regarding the team’s defense, depth and willingness to use some squad rotation. All of which will be heavily tested if the proposed return to play plan goes forward.
The good news is that Sporting KC are first in the Western Conference regular season standings and second in the Supporter’s Shield standings behind only the Columbus Crew (also eliminated from MLS is Back).
Those high positions could soon come under pressure as according to The Athletic MLS could return for the regular season on August 22nd, just over three weeks from today.
The MLS is Back tournament final will happen on August 11th, leaving a small break for the finalists before things really pick up steam. All the teams would then play six games from August 22nd through Sept 13th with the three Canadian teams (Vancouver Whitecaps, Montreal Impact, Toronto FC) only playing each other.
Then the league will attempt to play 12 more games from September 16th through November 8th. That would be 18 games in a little under 12 weeks and bring each teams total played to 23 (FC Dallas and Nashville SC are going to play each other three times in the coming weeks to make up for them missing the MLS is Back tournament).
The reason for the two phases with no real break in between is the Canadian clubs have no way to have teams from the United States come into Canada currently. According to The Athletic, Toronto FC are making tentative plans to setup shop in the US but it’s unclear if Vancouver and Montreal are doing the same.
In an effort to limit travel, it’s rumored that all games will be inter-conference games. Nashville will reportedly move to the East (outside of the Dallas games), though for geographical purposes it may make more sense to let them play teams in the Midwest like KC, Minnesota United and the Houston Dynamo, who are all in the West. If this plan goes through, SKC will not play either 2020 expansion team (Inter Miami CF being the other).
If you are worried that a lack of squad rotation could send Sporting KC spiraling down the standings with so many games over such a short period, worry not. Almost everyone gets into the playoffs under this proposal (which is quite stupid).
18 teams, nine per conference, make the playoffs. Those won’t start until November 20th to allow for the FIFA international window. The tournament would be single elimination, though there must be some sort of play-in game or a bye with 18 teams involved instead of a cleaner 16 teams. It basically completely negates the regular season having this many teams as only eight teams miss the playoffs.
The one plus could be home field advantage (one would assume). With teams rumored to be flying in and out on game day to avoid hotel stays, road games could be very tough the rest of the year.
The MLS Cup Final will be played on December 12th and then a shortened offseason would likely see the start of the 2021 regular season on time.
Where do Sporting KC Fit?
It’s only five games in, but they are in great shape with their 4-1-0 regular season record. In the proposed return to play plan that’s nearly 22 percent of all games that will be played. KC may need something around just a single point per game on average to advance to the expanded playoffs. That’s six wins in 18 games. Throw in a few draws (or a bunch more wins) and they could be seeded fairly high.
To help limit the potential spread of the coronavirus, teams will all travel on chartered flights. This will potentially greatly decrease the chance of the virus being spread. However, players aren’t in any sort of bubble, so it’s nearly a sure thing that some players will become infected and that some games could be postponed or worse.
You’ve no doubt heard of the early struggles from Major League Baseball with the Miami Marlins dealing with numerous cases. It’s a very real possibility, now that teams are outside the bubble, this could happen in MLS.
As for fans, it’s possible there will be some attendance, based on the rules in place by the various localities. The USL has had limited capacity at many games since returning a few weeks ago.
The Blue Testament will bring you more as rumors continue or something becomes official.