The MLS Schedule in 2021 and What To Expect in 2022

Written by Vaughn Pollman

Last week Major League Soccer announced key dates for the 2021 MLS Calendar. Now that the Collective Bargaining Agreement has been resolved, we can rest a little easier now that the 2021 season will resume as scheduled.

• Feb. 22: MLS Preseason training begins (6 weeks)

• Apr. 3-4: MLS is Back - Opening Weekend 2021

• Late Aug.: MLS Heineken® Rivalry Week

• Late summer: MLS All-Star Game presented by Target, Leagues Cup, Campeones Cup

• Nov. 7: MLS Decision Day (final day of the regular season)

• Nov. 19: Audi 2021 MLS Cup Playoffs begin

• Dec. 11: 2021 MLS Cup

Source:https://www.mlssoccer.com/post/2021/01/25/major-league-soccer-announces-2021-season-and-preseason-start-dates

 

In our current topsy-turvy “Covid-times,” nothing is set in stone, but for now we at least have a baseline of what to expect in the coming year for MLS. With this information and past MLS schedules, we can begin to paint a picture of what the future holds for Charlotte FC’s inaugural season.

Teams will set out for 6 weeks of preseason training camps beginning February 22nd this year, roughly a month later than in year’s past. Much like Major League Baseball, teams will head for warmer climates and convene for camp in the Arizona desert or Florida sun to hold scrimmages and small tournaments to build up match fitness ahead of the season.

In 2022, I predict MLS to return to a more normal calendar and open training camps in mid to late January. It will be particularly important for MLS to start their calendar early in 2022 with the likely intent to wrap up the playoffs with as little overlap as possible with the winter World Cup in Qatar. A start this early will mean a very truncated offseason between the ’21 and ’22 seasons, but it will be necessary to get the regular-season calendar “back on track”.

This year’s April 3rd start date for MLS is Back Opening Weekend is the latest season kickoff since 2007. Typically, the season begins around the first week of March. In 2022 I think the goal will be to start the league the weekend of March 5th & 6th. Much later than that, and the league will be stuck with another heavily congested schedule. After the past year of uber-tight game schedules, I think they will try their best to give teams true recovery periods and fewer double game weeks in 2022.

Decision Day, the final day of the regular season when playoff seedings are resolved, will be November 7th this year. If this date is the same or similar in 2022, it would be a major problem with the playoff schedule clashing hard with the World Cup schedule. The ’22 World Cup is currently slated to run from November 21st until December 18th. In the past, MLS has taken a roughly 2-week break for the group stage, but those World Cups were all held in the summer. The Qatar World Cup being held in winter will conflict heavily with the MLS end-of-year and playoff scheduling in 2022 unless they get the early start already outlined.

I expect MLS to try holding Decision Day 2022 the first week of October, as they did in 2019 and as they originally scheduled to do in 2020. In my projection, I’m pinning Decision Day to fall on October 9th, 2022, leaving time for the playoffs to be completed before the start of the World Cup Group Stage on November 21st.

I could make the counterargument that MLS will try to piggy-back off the World Cup interest and try to fill evening tv slots the same day as World Cup games. I don’t see that as likely as it doesn’t solve the problem of having players away on international duty during some of the most critical club games down the stretch and in the playoffs. I’m not sure that the league nor its TV partners will want that outcome.

Looking at the physical calendar and taking the precedent of past MLS seasons into account, my gut tells me that MLS will attempt to avoid overlap with the group stage games altogether and hold MLS Cup as close as possible, but before the start of the World Cup. I’m penciling in November 13th for the 2022 MLS Cup, roughly a week ahead of the World Cup.

Rolling back to this upcoming season, the 2021 MLS Cup will be held on December 11th. I feel fairly confident in my guess that the Charlotte FC Expansion Draft will be held on Tuesday, December 14th, likely at 2pm ET. The last 5 expansion drafts have all been held on the first or second Tuesday following MLS Cup, and all at 2pm ET, with the exception of 2019’s draft being held at 5:30 pm ET. If any of my projections are right, just call me Vaughnstradamus.

 

 

 

MLS 
Preseason 

First 
Kick

Decision 
Day

Playoffs 
Start

MLS 
Cup

Expansion 
Draft

2017

Jan. 21

Mar. 3

Oct. 22

Oct. 25

Dec. 9

Dec. 12

2018

Jan. 22

Mar. 3

Oct. 28

Oct. 31

Dec. 8

Dec. 11

2019

Jan. 12

Mar. 2

Oct. 6

Oct. 19

Nov. 10

Nov. 19

2020

original

Jan. 13/20

Feb. 29

Oct. 4

N/A

Nov. 7

N/A

2020

actual

Jan. 13/20

Feb. 29

Nov. 8

Nov. 20

Dec. 12

Dec. 15

2021

Feb. 22

Apr. 3

Nov. 7

Nov. 19

Dec. 11

Dec. 14?

2022 projection

Jan. 17?

Mar. 5?

Oct. 9?

Oct. 16?

Nov. 13?

 


 

 

2022 Qatar
World Cup 

Group Stage

Nov. 21 - Dec. 2

Rd. 16

Dec. 3 - 6

QF

Dec. 9 &10

SF

Dec. 13 & 14

Final

Dec. 18

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