Until their U.S. Open Cup final at Atlanta a year ago, Minnesota United players knew not of chartered air travel, which is a way of life in the NFL, MLB, NBA and MLB.
A new MLS labor agreement reached last winter required teams charter eight one-way flights per season. Then the coronavirus pandemic came in late winter, shutting down play until the league's MLS is Back Tournament had all teams sequestered in Orlando this summer.
Now that the MLS regular season has restarted in home markets, teams are stipulated where distance requires to fly by chartered aircraft to and from road games on the same day to reduce the chance of contracting the virus.
That means the Loons plan to rise early Saturday and catch their own morning flight to Dallas for the game at 7:30 p.m. In between, they will spend the afternoon resting in their hotel rooms until game time approaches.
"Obviously something new," Loons coach Adrian Heath said. "We have to be ready because that's what it's going to be like for us and that's what it's going to be like for everybody."
Sporting Kansas City caught a morning flight to Minnesota last week and flew home immediately afterward with a 2-1 victory. Four days later, Houston flew early morning to Kansas City and left that night with a 5-2 victory over Sporting.
After the game, Heath talked with Sporting Kansas City coach Peter Vermes about the night's experience.
"They actually quite enjoyed it," Heath said. "They thought it was a good idea."
Loons veteran midfielder and MLSPA executive board member Ethan Finlay also sought opinions from Kansas City players and other players around the league.
"It will be a challenge," Finlay said in an interview conducted by a team employee and made available to media. "We did really well as a group down in Orlando, which is probably the toughest challenge with being away from family and friends and being in a bubble.
"I think we'll be ready for it. I think our sports-science people are doing everything they can to get us ready for it. We'll be ready to go once game time comes."
The Loons travel early Saturday morning in case summer storms or other factors delay them. They'll have their pregame meal and rest and sleep in hotel rooms before kickoff. They'll eat a postgame meal before they take their chartered plane home that night.
Heath knows all about same-day travel from all his years playing and coaching in England.
"Playing for Everton, within an hour I probably could be at 20 stadiums," Heath said. "It's not quite the same here. All things being equal, it's new for the players, but I don't see it being any problem. I really don't. … It's the same for every team. If you look at some of the results that have happened, it's not going to be such a crazy situation."