When the first phase of the amended 2020 MLS regular season schedule was released, the league’s three Canadian clubs were not included due to travel restrictions between the United States and Canada amid the COVID-19 pandemic.
But plans are in the works, Commissioner Don Garber said in a media conference call with reporters. The clubs in flux are the Montreal Impact, Toronto FC and Vancouver Whitecaps – and they’d face a phased-in approach regarding training and intra-country play.
“There is no plan whatsoever to exclude the Canadian teams from continuing to play [in 2020],” Garber said. “We are working in real-time to first get approval for our Canadian clubs to begin training. And that is something we hope can happen soon. Then it is a follow-up process to get approval on overall return to play in Canada, which would be the three clubs playing against each other.
“Hopefully we’ll be able to receive that approval and satisfy questions and concerns [Canadian authorities] have, then we could receive approval for what the future of that might be in phase two,” Garber added. “That’s work that has not been completed. The first phase is to have them return to train and the second phase is approval for them to play against each other north of the border in Canada."
Before returning home in late July, all three clubs participated in the MLS is Back Tournament in Orlando. Each one reached the Round of 16, with Montreal and Toronto both advancing out of Group C. Vancouver emerged from Group B, even without several key players, before being eliminated on penalty kicks against Sporting Kansas City in the Round of 16.
While the schedule details around the Canadian clubs get ironed out, the first phase of the return to play in home markets will see most other MLS teams play six matches against regional opponents through Sept. 14. The regular season will reach its apex with Decision Day on Nov. 8, and the league aims to release the remainder of the schedule in early September.
The end result is a shortened regular season whereby 18 clubs will qualify for the Audi MLS Cup Playoffs, up from 14 last year. The postseason begins Nov. 20 and ends with MLS Cup on Dec. 12.