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MLS still planning to start 2021 season in March

League officials cite packed international calendar as a reason to start on time.

2019 MLS Cup - Toronto FC v Seattle Sounders Photo by Andy Mead/ISI Photos/Getty Images

While common sense — as well as some early reporting — would suggest it prudent to delay the start of the 2021 MLS season, a league official said on Friday the current plan is to open in early March.

While a March start is the plan, it’s not as clear how the rest of the season will look. This year, MLS Cup was pushed back a full month from last year. Leaving MLS Cup in December would give the league considerably more flexibility in terms of scheduling around various international windows. Adding to the fixture congestion will be the presumed resumption of the U.S. Open Cup, Leagues Cup and Concacaf Champions League. In order to accommodate everything, an extended calendar is a virtual imperative.

On the other hand, it seems very unlikely that the Seattle Sounders will be in a position to bring fans to CenturyLink Field for a full season’s worth of games. The general consensus is that even if there’s a viable vaccine approved by March, it probably won’t be widely distributed enough to make bringing 40,000 fans CenturyLink Field a completely safe option. It’s possible that state and county health officials will green-light in-person events by then, but it would probably be at limited capacity and a significant portion of fans are likely to be uncomfortable attending.

For now, the Sounders seem to be moving ahead under the assumption they can sell a full season worth of games. Back in April, Sounders majority owner Adrian Hanauer estimated the league would lose hundreds of millions of dollars this year, mostly due to lost ticket revenue.

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