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MLS announces important dates for 2021 season

Major League Soccer now has a start and finish date for the upcoming season.

Columbus Crew SC v New York City FC Photo by Ira L. Black - Corbis/Getty Images

The 2021 Major League Soccer season has a starting date. The league’s 26th season will begin on Saturday, April 3, MLS announced on Monday, along with important dates for the upcoming season.

A full MLS schedule will be announced in the coming weeks. Despite a later start, clubs will go back to a regular 34-game schedule with Decision Day ending the regular season on Nov. 7. Teams can begin preseason on Feb. 22 with all players required to quarantine before returning to their clubs. The 2021 MLS Cup playoffs are set to start on Nov. 19, one week before Thanksgiving, and will culminate on Dec. 11 with the 2021 MLS Cup Final.

With the finalized details for the league’s schedule in place, there is still a hint of doubt with ongoing discussions between the league’s owners and the MLS Players’ Association on signing a two-year extension on the current Collective Bargaining Agreement. It stated in the release:

“MLS continues to meet with the Major League Soccer Players Association and players to discuss working together to put MLS on a secure footing given the unprecedented impact of COVID-19. On January 5 MLS presented the MLSPA with a proposal that committed to paying the players 100% of their salaries this year, in return for a two-year extension of the MLS Collective Bargaining Agreement. The MLSPA provided a response to the league’s proposal January 23. 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 Columbus Crew will face a congested schedule throughout 2021. The 2020 champions will likely play their opening game of the MLS season on either Saturday, April 3 or Sunday, April 4. A few days later, the Black & Gold will play its first game in the CONCACAF Champions League on either April 6, 7 or 8 before likely suiting up for another league game the next weekend.

In fact, it’s likely the Crew will play five games in a two-week span to start the season with the expectation of three weekend league games to start April and playing both legs of its Round of 16 tie in the Champions League. With no concrete schedule at this time, fans can only speculate on just a few matchups expected dates.

MLS announced its annual Rivalry Week will happen in late-August, likely featuring another edition of the Hell is Real Derby at either the Crew’s new downtown stadium or West End Stadium in Cincinnati. A few weeks later, Columbus will host the Campeones Cup match at the new stadium against Mexico’s Campeon de Campeones winners.

Shuffled into that also includes the U.S. Open Cup, MLS All-Star, Leagues Cup, and multiple international competitions like FIFA World Cup qualifying, the Gold Cup and the CONCACAF Nations League Finals, to name a few.

It should be exciting 2021 across the world of soccer but especially in MLS and specifically in Columbus. The new Crew squad should convene in less than a month for the start of preseason and then it’s off and running from there.

Key Crew dates:

February 22 - MLS Preseason can begin

April 3 - MLS Regular Season starts

April 6-8 - CONCACAF Champions League starts

July - New Columbus Crew Stadium opens

Late August - Rivalry Week (Hell is Real)

Late Summer - Campeones Cup, MLS All-Star Game, Leagues Cup

October 26-28 - 2021 CONCACAF Champions League Final

November 7 - MLS Decision Day

November 19 - MLS Cup Playoffs start

December 11 - 2021 MLS Cup Final