Major League Soccer announced on Wednesday that the start of its 2021 regular season has been pushed back from April 3 to April 17.
The announcement comes two days after the league and the MLS Players Association ratified a Collective Bargaining Agreement, which will run through the 2027 season. 2021
The league said in a statement: “Major League Soccer today announced an update to the start of the MLS regular season. Following the ratification of the CBA on Feb. 8, the MLS regular season will now kick off on Saturday, April 17. MLS will announce the 2021 MLS regular season schedule in the coming weeks.”
The season will see each of the league’s 27 clubs play 34 matches, with expansion side Austin FC beginning play in the 2021 campaign.
Other dates already established for the regular season are not expected to change, with MLS Decision Day on Nov. 7, followed by the MLS Cup playoffs starting on Nov. 19, and the MLS Cup final set to be held on Dec. 11.
MLS had originally targeted a mid-March start date, but a source with knowledge of the situation said that when it was clear the CONCACAF Champions League would also start in April, that gave MLS additional flexibility to delay the start of the regular season by two weeks. In accordance with MLS health and safety protocols, players will be required to quarantine and conduct individual trainings upon reporting back to their clubs.
Preseason training camps can begin on Feb. 22, giving teams eight weeks to prepare for the start of the campaign. The delayed start date also allows for more people across the country to be vaccinated against the coronavirus, which will hopefully hasten the timeline for when fans can return to MLS venues in greater numbers.
MLS will see the opening of new stadiums for Austin FC, FC Cincinnati and defending champion Columbus Crew SC. With Austin FC’s arrival, the 2021 season will feature 14 clubs in the Eastern Conference and 13 in the Western Conference.
ESPN’s Jeff Carlisle contributed to this story.