MLS Cup held on Dec. 12 will conclude a Major League Soccer season unlike any other because of the coronavirus pandemic. Despite concerns related to the worsening health crisis, the North American top flight is aiming for its typical turnaround before the start of the upcoming season.
In a statement shared by Jeff Carlisle of ESPN, MLS president and deputy commissioner Mark Abbott said the plan is to start the 2021 campaign in early March due to schedule congestion caused by multiple international tournaments and dates.
"Based on the crowded international calendar next year, we are targeting to start our season in early March as usual," Abbott explained. "The restrictions on our ability to have fans in our stadiums this year contributed to very significant financial losses. Like all leagues, we are concerned about those restrictions continuing for a second year and are continually evaluating how to manage through the impact of the pandemic in 2021."
It's believed clubs will host matches in-market as they did following the MLS is Back tournament held at the ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex in Florida. However, the pandemic and resulting financial losses allow owners to invoke a previously added force majeure clause and cancel the collective bargaining agreement if the union pushes back against personnel entering a new "bubble" format.
It's believed owners don't intend to invoke the clause before the start of next season.
As is the case for competitions around the world, speculating on the state of MLS four months down the road is a futile exercise because too much remains unknown. MLS first must complete the playoffs set to get underway next Friday.