MLS season to kick off April 3

Los Angeles (AFP) –


Major League Soccer chiefs unveiled plans for the 2021 season on Monday, confirming the league will kick-off on April 3 before wrapping up with the MLS Cup in mid-December.

A statement from MLS said 27 teams, including new expansion side Austin FC, would each play 34 games before the playoffs get under way in November.

Fourteen teams will play in the Eastern Conference with 13 in the Western Conference.

The new season takes place after a chaotic 2020 campaign which was halted last March as the coronavirus pandemic swept across North America.

Play finally resumed last July with a World Cup-style tournament with teams based at a single "bubble" location in Orlando.

However the new season will see teams playing at their home venues, with strict Covid-19 testing protocols in place.

Players reporting for pre-season training in February will be require to quarantine and train individually for an initial period, a statement said.

During the season, all players, technical staff and essential club workers would be tested every other day, including the day before each match day. All travel will be by chartered flight, the league said.

The status of the three Canadian teams playing in the league remains unclear, however, because of coronavirus-related travel restrictions between Canada and the United States.

"Major League Soccer continues to work with the league's three Canadian clubs regarding plans for the 2021 regular season," the statement said.

"More details on plans for the Canadian teams will be announced in the near future."