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Next phase of MLS season will likely look a lot like this one

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Garth Lagerwey says to expect more games against Western Conference opponents.

Max Aquino / Sounder at Heart

The COVID-19 pandemic has forced MLS to adopt a Frankenstein’s Monster version of a season that has already included a three-month break, a neutral-site tournament and a shortened regular-season that will be broken up into several phases. The first of those phases ends this week, with the Seattle Sounders’ final scheduled game on Thursday against the San Jose Earthquakes. As soon as today, MLS is expected to announce details of the next phase.

While acknowledging there are still unknown details, Sounders General Manager Garth Lagerwey said he expects the next phase to again be weighted heavily toward shortened travel times. That likely means the Sounders will play the Portland Timbers again, despite having already played them twice. The Sounders also still need to reschedule their game against the LA Galaxy that was originally supposed to be played on Aug. 26.

“You’re looking at schedules where health and safety are prioritized,” Lagerwey said during his appearance on KJR’s Sounders Weekly. “If we’re trying to minimize travel, if we’re going to play more games, I have to think we’re going to play Portland a couple more times because from a health and safety perspective that’s going to make most sense.

“If we play a largely West Coast schedule — that’s a really tough schedule — you’re going to know them pretty well.”

Among the biggest challenges MLS schedule makers face is what to do about the Canadian teams with travel to and from the United States currently limited. There have been reports that both the Montreal Impact and Toronto FC will play their home games at Red Bull Arena, but nothing has been made official nor have any reports surfaced about where the Vancouver Whitecaps might play.

“It’s so difficult, the health and safety situation evolves in each market differently, I can’t even imagine how difficult it is to work something out with Canada,” Lagerwey said. “There just aren’t easy answers right now and this evolves week to week.”