Let the countdown begin.
Major League Soccer announced on Wednesday that the 2021 season is set to kick off on Saturday, April 17 – just 66 days from today.
The news comes on the heels of the league and the MLS Players Association finalizing a new Collective Bargaining Agreement covering the next seven years through 2027.
The rest of the schedule remains to be finalized as the league continues to work with all the clubs on stadium availability and with the Canadian teams on the additional challenges presented by ongoing travel restrictions.
“Our main objective is to play as many of our home games in Canada as possible and we’re working very closely with the league and public health officials to explore every option,” said Whitecaps FC CEO and sporting director Axel Schuster. “At the same time we have to be prepared with alternative scenarios including a plan to set up a US base for the start of the season.”
Travel restrictions for entering Canada remain in place, requiring a quarantine of 14 days, as well as new restrictions set to take effect soon that will require all air travellers to stay in a Government of Canada-approved hotel for their first three nights.
“As part of this process, we have been looking at a number of markets to find the best solution for our club. There is still a lot of work to be done and we will provide more information as soon as we are able.”
Speaking to media Wednesday, MLS Commissioner Don Garber touched on the situation that the three Canadian clubs are working through.
“I feel for our Canadian clubs and I feel for our players. As you can imagine, all three of our (Canadian) teams are working on alternative plans as to where they're going to be playing their games, certainly in the short term, because it doesn't look like we will have immediate exposure to this in the near term,” added Garber during media availability. “Right now, our focus is trying to get an understanding as to when our teams can play in their home markets. And in the event that they're not able to as our season starts, having them have homes in the United States where they'll be able to play their home matches.”
“We’ll announce the date of the opening of training camps really soon then the regular season schedule soon in the coming weeks, hopefully by early March," said Garber.
On the topic of travel, Garber also shared that teams will be flying charter similar to last season, as another layer of safety for players and staff on the road.
“The new CBA continues the progression of charter flights that we had agreed to in the past," Garber said. “I’m hoping we get through the pandemic quickly. Until we do though, we’ll incur the expense of chartering our teams around.”
Let the countdown begin.