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Fourth-tier American league UPSL announces June 20 return

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Fourth-tier American league United Premier Soccer League has announced it plans to start its spring season on June 20 in states where it’s legal to do so.

It’s stunning to read given the climate caused by the coronavirus pandemic in the United States right now, but commissioner Yan Skwara says participation will be voluntary and that teams have until June 10 to announce their intention to play in the spring season.

That’s awfully close to the start of play, but these are extraordinary, heavily-charged times.

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The UPSL’s official release reads, “The UPSL Spring 2020 Season will commence in a condensed format starting Saturday, June 20, and incorporating only the states, counties and municipalities where organized soccer is allowed. We are optimistic that play will be permitted in Florida, Texas, Georgia, Arizona, Colorado, Utah, Idaho, and South Carolina. Other states will be subject to ongoing developments and all locations are subject to change at very short notice.”

Skwara told ProSoccerTalk, “As the social distancing restrictions across the country continue to ease, we have officially initiated a return back to soccer competition. With our announcement today, we are creating an opportunity for those team that are able to compete to do so. This has been a long road over the past few months and we look forward to seeing the players back in the beautiful game.”

The league has canceled its national championship and will spread its prize money amongst the regional champions. It will conclude its competition in late August. It also announced its Fall season would start two weeks later and run into February if conditions around the virus allow it.

Fellow fourth-tier leagues USL League Two and the NPSL canceled their seasons earlier this spring but said they’d revisit abbreviated schedules and unusual competitions if the coronavirus pandemic eased and clubs wanted to play.

The UPSL was founded in 2011 and has over 300 teams across the country. It was nationally sanctioned by the USASA for the first time in October.

UPSL playoff match abandoned after coach punches referee

Photo by Clive Mason/Getty Images
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A United Premier Soccer League playoff game was abandoned after a referee assault in Maryland on Saturday, the latest in a long line of referee abuse stories.

A player from Mass United had been shown a red card, and a member of the club’s coaching staff punched the referee.

UPDATE: The league released a statement condemning the incident and vowing to stand with its referees.

The match between Mass United and World Class Premier FC (Maryland) was a Northeast Championship match, and would send a winner to the UPSL’s national finals in Miami.

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The match was tied at 1 around halftime when the referee stopped play after a foul led to a skirmish between players.

According to a source, the referee mistakenly removed a red card from his pocket when he meant to show a yellow. Before the referee could correct himself, an assistant coach punched him in the face. The game was abandoned and the win awarded to World Class Premier.

The UPSL is considered to be the fourth-tier of the American Soccer Pyramid and is sanctioned by the United States Adult Soccer Association.

EDIT: An earlier post said the UPSL was in the fifth-tier of the pyramid. The league was given higher sanctioning earlier this Fall.

Referees in Berlin protested increased incidents of violence earlier this year, while Franck Ribery and Neymar have both been suspended for making contact with officials. In 2014, an American referee was killed after a player punched him in the face after a red card incident. The player was sentenced to eight years in prison.

Here’s how it looked from the local angle in Maryland, with The Montgomery County Sentinel reporter Carlos Alfaro Rodriguez on scene. He confirmed the incident with ProSoccerTalk.