MLS to open season on April 3; MLS Cup set for Dec. 11

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Major League Soccer will open its 2021 season on April 3 and conclude with the MLS Cup title game on Dec. 11.

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Teams will be allowed to start preseason camps on Feb. 22.

But the announcement Monday came amid ongoing uncertainty about the coronavirus pandemic and whether fans will be able to attend games, especially at the start of the season.

As a result, the league has invoked the agreement’s “force majeure” clause to reopen negotiations on a collective bargaining agreement.

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The league and the MLS players’ union had two difficult negotiations a year ago – one in February before the start of the season, and a second in June when players took a pay cut in order to resume the 2020 season.

Earlier this month, MLS proposed paying the players their full salaries this season in exchange for a two-year extension of the current CBA. The Major League Soccer Players Union countered that it would not be rushed into negotiations.

There’s also uncertainty about the three Canadian teams in MLS. Because of travel restrictions, the Canadian teams had to relocate to the United States to finish last season. Toronto played home games in Connecticut, Montreal was moved to Red Bull Stadium in New Jersey and Vancouver shared Providence Park with the Portland Timbers.

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Major League Soccer will grow to 27 teams this season with the addition of expansion Austin. There will be 13 teams in the Western Conference and 14 in the East.

The regular season will conclude Nov. 7 and the playoffs will open Nov. 19. The date of the MLS All-Star game has not been set. The league will announce a broadcast schedule in coming weeks.

Teams will remain under strict COVID-19 protocols.