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MLS announces schedule for home-market games

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The majority of the matches in local markets will be played without fans in attendance. 

MLS: Atlanta United FC at Nashville SC The Tennessean-USA TODAY NETWORK via Imagn Content Services, LLC

MLS unveiled a partial plans for returning to home markets and will be doing so at near breakneck speed. In what is being dubbed as “Phase 1” of the post-MLS is Back Tournament schedule, teams will play six games against regional opponents over a less than three-week span. In Phase 2, teams will play 12 more games against still-to-be-determined opponents and dates.

The Seattle Sounders will open play with a road game against the Portland Timbers on Aug. 23 — just 11 days after the Timbers play for the MLS is Back title — and will conclude this phase of the regular season with a home match against the San Jose Earthquakes on Sept. 10. In between they’ll play road games against the LA Galaxy (Aug. 26) and Real Salt Lake (Sept. 2) and home games against LAFC (Aug. 30) and Timbers (Sept. 6). As of now, the Sounders will not play their home matches in front of fans as King County has not yet cleared events with in-person spectators.

The six matches in 19 days will be among the busiest stretches in Sounders history and will certainly be the most league games they’ve played in such a compressed schedule. They’ll be aided by traveling to away matches on charter flights, none of which should last more than two hours.

How teams manage their fitness during these games may just be window dressing, though. Of greater concern is how the league will safely pull this off amidst the global coronavirus pandemic. While the league appears to have successfully pulled off their “bubble” tournament without any serious incidents among the 24 teams who ultimately participated, Major League Baseball and the USL Championship have not fared as well when they’ve attempted to play games in home markets.