On June 25, the USL Championship announced the competitive structure for the remainder of the 2020 season that has been tweaked down to a 16-game regular season, and clubs are divided into eight groups followed by a single-elimination playoff. The regular season games will be played over 13 weeks, concluding on the weekend of Oct. 2-4.
Republic FC has 15 of the 16 regular season fixtures remaining this season, having already drawn 1-1 against FC Tulsa during the Indomitable Club’s home opener on March 7. Eight new regionalized groups – five groups made up of four teams, and three groups made up of five teams to cover the 35 member clubs of the Championship – will be formed to limit travel through the league.
Portland, Tacoma and Reno will join Republic FC in Group A. Teams will be initially scheduled to play a balanced schedule of eight games home and away in the regular season. If necessary, the Board of Governors has also approved the ability for clubs to play an unbalanced amount of home and away matches; for example, if a club is experiencing difficulties with venue availability due to the impact of COVID-19 in their community. The complete schedule will be shared at a later date.
In addition to the season format update, the league also released its health and safety protocols that will govern a club’s return to play, and ensure the health and wellness of all those connected to the game.
The protocols include social distancing before and after games, in the locker room, on team buses (more than one bus will be used on a trip if necessary), and on the sidelines during games.
Also included are wearing masks in instances such as travelling or whenever a player is not at home; sanitizing team areas, providing hand sanitizer and disinfectant, and screening multiple times a week.
Republic FC says it will continue to work directly with public health officials and local leaders to implement protocols that will support community health safeguards. In alignment with the league’s announcement to lift its training moratorium, Republic FC has moved to the third phase of its return to play plan, created with the guidance of expert insight from team health officials with UC Davis Health, and guidance from the club’s taskforce.
The June 25 announcement, plus the June 26 return to full team training with enhanced health protocols, are the most recent steps in the Republic FC’s effort to bring live professional sports back to the city.
“Despite the extended hiatus, our team has never stopped working,” said Republic FC General Manager Todd Dunivant. “The players and staff have shown an incredible work ethic and exemplified the indomitable spirit that this club embodies for all of Sacramento. We can’t wait to bring that to the field for everyone to see.”
As part of its return to play plan, the club will continue to work with health experts and officials to explore opportunities for hosting a limited set of fans for home matches in a safe environment. As more information becomes finalized, the club will contact its season ticket members for options to attend.
With a new season format, this year’s playoffs will have a different look as well. The top two teams from each group in the regular season will advance to the 2020 USL Championship Playoffs, producing a field of 16 teams overall in a regionalized single-elimination bracket. Group winners will be paired with group runners-up in the Round of 16, with home advantage being determined by record for the remainder of the bracket.