MLS reveals Covid-tweaked 2021 schedule

·2 min read

Major League Soccer released its schedule for the upcoming 2021 season on Wednesday, with concerns over Covid-19 leading to fewer inter-conference games and Canadian clubs based in the United States.

The new season, which kicks off on April 16, will see the league's 27 clubs play 34 regular-season games before seven teams from the Eastern and Western conferences advance to the end-of-season playoffs.

The league confirmed that Canada's three teams -- CF Montreal, Toronto FC and Vancouver Whitecaps -- will play at US venues until a return to their home markets is allowed.

Montreal will play games at Inter Miami's stadium in Fort Lauderdale while Toronto will also be based in Florida with games at Orlando's Exploria Stadium. Vancouver will play at Real Salt Lake's Rio Tinto Stadium.

Teams will also play more games against teams in the same regional conference in order to cut down on travel times, the league said. Clubs will also travel by charter rather than commercial flights.

"With a focus on the health and safety of all players and staff, MLS clubs will continue to travel on charter flights during the pandemic," a league statement said.

"In an effort to minimize travel and time on the road, the number of regional matches has been increased and clubs will travel the day of the game whenever possible."

The league, meanwhile, will break during the FIFA international window in June and be halted again from July 9 to coincide with the CONCACAF Gold Cup.

The season kicks off on April 16 with Houston Dynamo hosting the San Jose Earthquakes while Minnesota United travel to Seattle Sounders.

Other opening weekend highlights include a meeting between David Beckham's Inter Miami and the former England and Manchester United star's old club, Los Angeles Galaxy, on April 18.

The 2020 MLS campaign ground to a halt in March last year after just a handful of games of the season as the pandemic swept across North America.

The league eventually restarted with a World Cup-style tournament in Orlando before the regular season resumed in August.