MLS sets start date for 2021 season despite absence of labor deal

Julia Poe, Orlando Sentinel
·2 min read

Major League Soccer announced the schedule for its 2021 season, which will see Orlando City players returning to their home market to begin preseason training next month.

MLS shared its calendar Monday despite the absence of a new deal with the players’ association.

Preseason camp will start on Feb. 22, with the season slated to kick off on Saturday, April 3. All players traveling from outside the country will be required to complete a quarantine period before joining team workouts.

This season feature a traditional 34-match lineup, with the playoffs beginning in November and the MLS Cup scheduled for Dec. 11. The league has yet to announce the matchups for opening weekend.

Orlando City will look to follow up on the success of coach Oscar Pareja’s first season with the team, which ended with a historic club-best finish in the Eastern Conference semifinals.

The season schedule isn’t set in stone just yet, and its confirmation revolves around one key step — an agreement between the league and the players on the collective bargaining agreement.

MLS invoked the force majeure clause in the CBA in December, forcing a renegotiation of the agreement previously made ahead of the 2020 season. The league cited the revenue loss caused by the pandemic as the reason for using the clause to spark renegotiation.

The initial weeks of these talks were tense, leading the league and the players association to trade jabs on Twitter last week.

Commissioner Don Garber previously set Jan. 28 as the deadline for an agreement on the CBA, although MLSPA director Bob Foose said there was no legal deadline for the renegotiation. Both sides expressed their desire to avoid a lockout or a strike.

Regardless of that deadline, the two parties will need to reach an agreement by Feb. 22 to begin preseason training.

2021 MLS key dates

Feb. 22: MLS preseason begins, all players report to home markets for six weeks

April 3: 2021 opening weekend

Late August: Rivalry Week

Late summer: MLS All-Star Game

Nov. 7: Decision Day

Nov. 19: Playoffs begin

Dec. 11: MLS Cup

This article first appeared on OrlandoSentinel.com. Email Julia Poe at jpoe@orlandosentinel.com.