It was less than three months ago that the Columbus Crew lifted the Philip F. Anschutz Trophy on a stage structured at midfield of historic Crew Stadium following a 3-0 win against the Seattle Sounders. The victory gave the Crew the 2020 MLS Cup title, the second in club history, and completed what was the strangest season of Major League Soccer play in the league’s 25-year history.
While no one wearing black and gold on that early-December night is soon to forget those memories, it is about time to set those aside and begin the quest for another run to the MLS Cup for Columbus. After back and forth between the MLS owners and the MLS Players’ Association for several weeks, it was confirmed that the 2021 MLS season will begin on the weekend of April 17, pushed back from its original intended start date of April 3. The Crew also knows its first two games against Real Esteli will take place between April 6-8 and April 13-14 as part of the two legs of the Round of 16 in the CONCACAF Champions League.
For most teams, that means reporting for the 2021 preseason on March 1 for a seven-day quarantine period (due to the COVID-19 pandemic), medical exams and testing prior to beginning preseason training on March 8. But for Columbus — as well as the other four teams either in or still able to qualify for the Champions League — reporting will occur earlier.
The Crew, along with Atlanta United, the Philadelphia Union and the Portland Timbers, may require players to report on Feb. 24 to begin their required seven-day quarantine period and team training can begin on March 3. Players are permitted to conduct individual training during the quarantine period and can engage in group training prior to March 3 as long as each player in the group training has conducted his medical exams and testing. The coaching staff or any members of the technical staff may not be present during any individual or group sessions prior to Feb. 24.
While the Black & Gold is yet to announce the details for the team’s 2021 preseason, Massive Report has learned that the plan is rather similar to last year. The Crew is expected to handle testing and medical examinations in Columbus before departing for Chula Vista, California — where the group will go for a third straight year — to begin preseason training. The team is then expected to briefly return to Columbus before heading back to Tucson, Arizona to once again take part in the 2021 Visit Tucson Sun Cup at the Kino Sports Complex, sources told Massive Report.
Last February, the Crew won the Visit Tucson Sup Cup with a 2-0-1 record. Columbus defeated the hosts, Phoenix Rising, 1-0 before a 1-1 draw with the New York Red Bulls. A 4-1 victory against the Houston Dynamo gave the Black & Gold its first official trophy, albeit in the preseason, of 2020.
MLS is expected to announce the full 2021 schedule in the next few weeks, meaning the Crew will soon know its path to defend its 2020 MLS Cup championship.