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Key Takeaways from Major League Soccer's Phase One Return to Play Announcement

The waiting game is over.

After weeks of wondering what would follow the MLS is Back Tournament, Major League Soccer announced on Saturday it’s plans for the resumption of the 2020 regular season.

In its “phase one” rollout, the league detailed its plans for teams to return to play in their respective home markets, with further scheduling announcements to follow.

Read the full press release here, but - for starters - here are some key takeaways from Friday’s announcement as the Fire now lock in on rising up the Eastern Conference table come Aug. 20:

Six Games to Start

Head coach Raphael Wicky and his men will return to regular season play with six confirmed matches over a span of 24 days, all against Eastern Conference opponents. The announced schedule, which begins Wednesday, Aug. 20, is as follows:

  • Wednesday, Aug. 20 at Columbus Crew SC
  • Tuesday, Aug. 25 vs. FC Cincinnati
  • Saturday, Aug. 29 at New York City FC
  • Wednesday, Sept. 2 at FC Cincinnati
  • Sunday, Sept. 6 vs. New England Revolution
  • Saturday, Sept. 12 vs. Columbus Crew SC

The Fire’s Phase 1 schedule is evenly dispersed with three matches to be played at home, and three on the road.

Kickoff Consistency

Each of the Fire’s six Phase 1 matches will kickoff at 6:30 p.m. CT, and will be broadcast live locally on WGN-TV, nationally on ESPN+, and additionally available for listening in Spanish on 105.1 WOJO-HD2 and TUDN 1200 AM (view schedule here).

Soldier Field at Last

While it will be played without fans present amid on-going COVID-19 health and safety precautions, the Fire will at last make their return to Soldier Field when they welcome FC Cincinnati to Chicago on Aug. 25. It will mark the Fire’s first match at Soldier Field since a 0-0 MLS Playoff draw with D.C. United on Oct. 21, 2005. 

The Fire’s home matches during phase one will be played without fans in attendance.

Safety First

COVID-19 testing protocols will continue to play an important role in the league's competition framework. MLS continues to work closely with the league’s infectious disease advisors as well as advisors for the Major League Soccer Players Association (MLSPA) on the plan for testing. All clubs are forming testing partnerships with a local certified lab, and all players, technical staff, and Club staff will be tested every other day, including the day before each match day. Also, guidelines will be provided to players, coaches and staff to avoid the risk of contracting and spreading COVID-19 during their time away from Club facilities.

Another focus of the new schedule is efficient travel. Teams will take chartered flights, and for the majority of road trips will arrive in the host market on matchday and depart after the match later that evening. 

What’s Next?

According to the league's press release, MLS intends to announce the remainder of the regular season by early September, while they continue working closely with infectious disease experts, league and club medical personnel, and government officials in all markets to chart a course for completing the 2020 season.

The Audi MLS Cup Playoffs are currently scheduled to begin on Nov. 20, in which 18 clubs will compete to play in the MLS Cup final, which is set for Dec. 12.