Major League Soccer on Monday announced a 2021 schedule that's a month later than a year ago to adapt to its COVID-19 elongated 2020 season.
With the league still negotiating with players on a revised labor agreement, clubs are set to play a full 34-game regular season that starts the weekend of April 3-4 and ends with a Decision Day finale on Nov. 7.
Minnesota United and the league's 26 other teams, including expansion Austin FC, can begin training Feb. 22. That allows six weeks to prepare for a "MLS is Back" opening weekend.
MLS health and safety protocols require players to quarantine and train individually upon reporting back to their clubs.
MLS Cup playoffs are scheduled to begin Nov 19. The MLS Cup will be played Dec. 11. Those are nearly the same dates as the 2020 season that was lengthened by a three-month coronavirus shutdown and a five-week midsummer tournament in Orlando.
In a news release, MLS said it continues to meet with the MLS Players Association and players to discuss what it calls "working together to put MLS on a secure footing given the unprecedented impact of COVID-19."
The release said the league's Jan. 5 proposal committed to pay players 100% of their 2021 salaries in return for a two-year extension of the MLS collective bargaining labor agreement. The players' union countered with its own proposal on Saturday.
"Although no agreement has been reached, MLS is committed to meet as many times as necessary with the MLSPA in the coming days to finalize an agreement," the MLS statement said.
As in 2020, all players, technical staff and essential club staff will continue to be tested for COVID-19 every other day, including the day before games, in 2021. Clubs also will continue to take chartered flights for all road trips until further notice.
Minnesota United opened last season March 1 at Portland and played a shortened 21-game season. Its final 2020 game was a heartbreaking 3-2 Western Conference final playoff loss at Seattle on Dec. 7.
The MLS All-Star Game, along with Campeones Cup and Leagues Cup games, will be played in late summer. MLS clubs also will participate in the Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup, Canadian Championship and Scotiabank Concacaf Champions League in 2021.
Dozens of MLS players are expected to compete for their national teams in competitions such as FIFA World Cup qualifying, Concacaf Nations League finals, the Concacaf Gold Cup, Copa America, the European Championship and Tokyo Summer Olympics.