The second-tier USL Championship revealed Thursday that its board of governors has approved a return-to-play plan. The league intends to return July 11, and while details of the format and schedule remain to be determined, it is not a hub plan with all of the league descending on one location–clubs are expecting to play at their own venues. News of the USL Championship's pending return was first reported by The Athletic.
National, state and local health guidelines will be followed as it relates to the ability to stage matches across the 35-team league, and the intended start date is a provisional one. There is no specification as of yet whether matches will be able to played with any amount of fans or behind closed doors entirely.
USL Championship will be joined back in action a week later by USL League One, the 12-team, third-tier league whose board of governors approved a July 18 return on Friday. The season for the fourth-tier USL League Two had already been canceled in April.
Another third-tier outfit, NISA, announced plans on Thursday to return with a two-part fall season that involves a regionalized competition and then a tournament at a single site.
USL Championship and League One had the starts of their seasons initially suspended on March 12.
USL figures to keep its focus on its own competitions upon their return and not the U.S. Open Cup, provided U.S. Soccer is able to salvage the long-running competition in some capacity later this year. USL president Jake Edwards told Sports Illustrated's Brian Straus in April that he didn't foresee Championship or League One teams participating in the Open Cup in 2020.
“The compression of the schedule when we return to play this year is going to be significant, and that presents huge challenges for our league. And our league, as we’ve said, is match-day revenue dependent,” Edwards said at the time. “We need to focus on the league matches, the regular season and postseason, as the priority for the health and long-term well-being of our clubs.”