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The USL Championship announced Wednesday an updated format for the 2020 season as its 35 teams across the United States prepare for a return to play. Here’s a breakdown of what awaits, which will impact nine reserves teams across MLS. 

Regular season

USL Championship teams will be drawn into eight regionalized groups to play a 16-game schedule. Five groups will be comprised of four teams and three groups will have five teams to account for geography and limiting travel.

The regular season will take place across 13 weeks, including a planned July 11 start and concluding on the weekend of Oct. 2-4. Games played before the COVID-19 suspension will count toward the 16-game schedule.

Groups A-D will be revealed on Thursday, while Groups E-H will be revealed on Friday. Also of note: Teams can make five substitutes as opposed to the usual three. They’ll have three opportunities to make changes, and those made at halftime don’t count against a team’s three in-game opportunities.

Schedule balance

Each team will play 12 games from their group, with the remaining four against teams from a similar geographic region. Those placed in a four-team group will play their three fellow group members four times, while those placed in a five-team group will play their four fellow group members three times.

Teams are set to play eight games home and away, though the Board of Governors has approved clubs playing an unbalanced amount should COVID-19 impact what’s feasible in-market.

Playoff structure

Each group’s top two teams will advance to the 2020 USL Championship Playoffs, creating a 16-team field that’ll play a regionalized single-elimination bracket.

Group winners will be paired with group runners-up in the Round of 16, and home advantage will be determined by record for the remainder of the bracket.

MLS connections

Here are the nine USL Championship teams with ties to MLS clubs, as sorted alphabetically. Other MLS clubs have an affiliate relationship with those in the USL Championship: