We have a start date for the 2021 MLS season, though there is a pretty significant catch.
Major League Soccer announced today it hopes to kick off on April 3. That date however is contingent on the league coming to an agreement with the MLS Players’ Association on a revised Collective Bargaining Agreement.
The league and players have been involved in another contested negotiation over the league invoking a force majeure clause. The clause initiated a 30-day negotiating window, after which MLS could withdraw from the CBA that was first agreed to last February and then renegotiated in June after the coronavirus pandemic decimated the worldwide economy. The league and MLSPA, after some public bickering, have submitted proposals to each other and continue negotiations.
Assuming the parties can come to an agreement, the league will start its 26th season with 27 teams, as Austin FC is set to debut this year. The season will conclude with Decision Day on Nov. 7, and the MLS Cup Playoffs will begin Nov. 19. MLS Cup will be played on Saturday, Dec. 11.
Clubs will be permitted to open preseason training on Feb. 22, six weeks prior to opening weekend. In a release provided by the league, pursuant to MLS health and safety protocols, players will be required to quarantine and conduct individual trainings upon reporting back to their clubs. Like they did during the resumed regular-season last year, teams will again fly charter for all road games.
Austin FC will join the Western Conference and the unbalanced conference will mean a return to the weekly bye schedule for at least one team. The status of the Canadian teams is yet to be determined, given the travel restrictions imposed by the Canadian government. The full schedule for the 2021 season will be released in the coming weeks, according to the league.
KEY DATES – MLS 2021 SEASON
Feb. 22 MLS Preseason training begins (6 weeks)
Players will observe a mandatory quarantine upon reporting
Apr. 3-4 MLS is Back - Opening Weekend 2021
Late Aug. MLS Rivalry Week
Late summer MLS All-Star Game, Leagues Cup and Campeones Cup
Nov. 7 MLS Decision Day
Nov. 19 Audi 2021 MLS Cup Playoffs begin
Dec. 11 2021 MLS Cup