|USL Championship lays out plans for resumption of season on July 11|
|Independence returns to full training June 29|
|Published Friday, June 26, 2020 7:51 pm|
|PHOTO | LEROY HARDEN|
|The Charlotte Independence and USL Championship will resume their season on July 11, four months after it was suspended due to the COVID-19 pandemic.|
The league is scheduled to resume on July 11, four months after suspending the season due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Travel will be limited by dividing the 35-club league into eight regionalized groups. Five groups will consist of four teams, and the remainder will consist of five clubs. The 16-game regular season will last 13 weeks, ending the weekend of Oct. 2-4.
Games played prior to the March 12 pause will be counted, and clubs will have 15 games going forward. The Charlotte Independence will play in Group G, along with Memphis 901 FC, North Carolina FC and Birmingham Legion FC. Charlotte has one win from their season opener at Sporting Kansas City II.
“No matter who you get in our league, you know it’s going to be hard games,” Charlotte coach Mike Jeffries said. “All three teams have done a good job in the offseason, and brought in players to improve their squad.”
Twelve games will be played within each group, followed by four games against regional opponents. The Independence will face Memphis, NCFC and Birmingham four times. The number of home and away matches depends on the impact of COVID-19 on markets, such as if a venue is not available for reasons pertaining to the pandemic.
Charlotte has not beaten NCFC since they joined the USL from NASL in 2018. NCFC has four wins and a draw in the series, however, given the number of times the sides will meet this season, Charlotte will have ample opportunity to end NCFC’s run.
“It’s definitely time,” Jeffries said.
Each group’s top two teams advance to the playoffs with a regionalized single-elimination bracket. Group winners will be paired against runners-up and will host first-round matches.
Teams were allowed to resume full-team training on June 24. Charlotte plans to begin full-team training on June 29.
The USL will allow five substitutions for 2020 rather than three, and teams will be able to make three in-game substitutions or make changes at halftime. Based on the compact schedule as well as players not being match-fit as they will not have played in four months, increased susceptibility to injury is a concern.
“Full-team training is at best a little over two weeks before we start playing games,” Jeffries said. “That’s not an easy preparation period. We’ve been on the field and been able to do a lot of work fitness wise, but managing it at full pace and the physicality, we haven’t had any time for preparation there. I think it’s going to be a concern with all teams. Five subs does help a little bit in that regard, but it’s still going to be a concern as we go through it. We don’t know the schedule yet, but hopefully we don’t have too many mid-week contests or three games per week, because that adds to the load physically.”
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