By Clemente Lisi – NEW YORK, NY (Dec 30, 2019) US Soccer Players – One year may be ending, but another is about to begin. That means a 12-month marathon of games and tournaments played around the world in what has increasingly become a congested fixture schedule for players and fans alike. There will be no shortage of games in 2020, including a summer with the Euros, Copa America, and the Olympics.
The USMNT has plenty to play for this coming year as well, including the Concacaf Nations League in June and World Cup Qualifying beginning at the end of August. MLS celebrates its silver anniversary while UEFA and CONMEBOL have their confederation tournaments this summer. Here’s a look ahead to what American fans can look forward to over the next 12 months, starting with January camp for the USMNT.
US Soccer is sending the squad to Qatar for most of the January camp beginning on the 5. They return to Carson to play Costa Rica at the home of the Galaxy on February 1. “The chance to play against a likely World Cup qualifying opponent is fantastic,” USMNT coach Gregg Berhalter said. “As we continue to develop, it’s important to challenge our group against a variety of different opponents. At the end of a January Camp, we want the players to have a chance to put all the work to the test.”
Winter transfer window
Starting on January 1, European clubs can buy/sell players for four weeks ending on the last day of the month. It’s the time of year where rumors of potential moves run rampant. Of interest to USMNT fans is Chelsea’s situation. The club expected to continue to serve its transfer ban, but the Court of Arbitration for Sport lifted that. Chelsea is free to conduct business as usual with manager Frank Lampard talking about spending on players.
The first SuperDraft of the decade and 21st overall goes from a live event to a conference call. The first two rounds will take place on January 9, while rounds three and four happen four days later. The importance of the college players entering the league is once again an open question. The academy system and homegrown signings provide an alternate route that may be the future for the league.
MLS Opening Weekend
The league celebrates its 25th season on February 29, the first time the season opens in February. The season will also feature the debuts of expansion sides Nashville SC and Inter Miami. Even with the season starting on a leap year date, it’s a compacted schedule to get 34 regular season games in by the October international window.
Concacaf Olympic qualifying
Guadalajara, Mexico is hosting the Olympic qualifying tournament from March 20 to April 1. The draw happens on January 9, with eight teams involved splitting into two groups of four. The group winners and runners-ups advance to the semifinals. Mexico and Honduras are in pot 1 with Canada and the United States in pot 2. The two semifinalists qualify for the 2020 Tokyo Olympics.
Concacaf Champions League final
The Concacaf Champions League final will take place over two legs. The first is scheduled between April 28 to 30, while the return match is May 5 to 7. The continent’s biggest club competition resumes with the round of 16 on February 18. Five MLS teams are competing in the following matchups: Montreal Impact vs. Saprissa (Costa Rica), Seattle Sounders FC vs. Olimpia (Honduras), NYCFC vs. San Carlos (Honduras), LAFC vs. Leon (Mexico), and Atlanta United vs Motagua (Honduras). Can an MLS team finally break Mexico’s domination and lift the trophy?
Premier League final matchday
Arguably the world’s most popular domestic league concludes on May 17. The expectation is that Liverpool will already be well ahead in May, making the title a foregone conclusion. There are still the other three Champions League places and which teams make the drop to the Championship to potentially make the final matchday count in England.
Europa League final
The tournament, featuring the best of the rest from Europe, is set for May 27 at the Stadion Energa Gdansk in Gdansk, Poland. It could be a season salvager for one of the elites like Arsenal, Manchester United, or Inter Milan. Ethan Horvath’s Club Brugge, Sergino Dest’s Ajax, Tyler Boyd’s Besiktas, John Brooks’s Wolfsburg, Timmy Chandler’s Eintracht, and Romain Gall’s Malmo are all in the round of 32 that begins on February 20 and concludes on the 27.
UEFA Champions League final
The world’s biggest club competition will crown a European champion on May 30, officially bringing the continent’s club season to a close at Ataturk Olympic Stadium in Istanbul, Turkey. The expectation is always that the biggest teams in Europe will advance to the final. That didn’t happen last season, though defending champions Liverpool is already a favorite. Christian Pulisic’s Chelsea hosts Bayern Munich and Tyler Adams’s RB Leipzig is at last year’s runners-up Spurs on February 18.
Concacaf Nations League
The USMNT successfully navigated the group stage of the new Concacaf Nations League over the October and November 2019 international windows. Concacaf moved the championship phase from March to June with Mexico playing Costa Rica and the United States vs Honduras. With the games taking up the June international window, there will be a 3rd-place game. Concacaf has yet to confirm dates or venues.
The quadrennial tournament, won by Portugal in 2016, will be played across 12 European cities in honor of the competition’s 60th birthday. It opens on June 12 in Rome when hosts Italy take on Turkey. The final is set for July 12 at London’s famed Wembley Stadium. Expanding the tournament and not having one country as the host has drawn criticism from supporters now needing to travel to multiple countries to follow their team. It’s also called into question sports in the era of climate activism.
If you didn’t get enough of the Copa last summer, it’s back. Co-hosted by Argentina and Colombia from June 12 to July 12 and running concurrently with the Euros, this is an attempt to adopt the four-year schedule. Whether or not CONMEBOL sticks to that plan is certainly worth asking. Right now, the next Copa America is set for 2024in Ecuador. The 12-team tournament was last won by Brazil. The invited guests in 2020 are Australia and Qatar. There is talk of a 16-team tournament in 2024 requiring more invited guests since CONMEBOL only has ten members.
Summer transfer window
With the Euros and Copa America a wonderful showcase for clubs looking to sign players, the summer transfer window starts on July 1 in most countries and runs through September 2. The silly season really intensifies in late July/early August, during the height of preseason. With England closing their window to coincide with the start of the Premier League season, there was disruption in last summer’s transfer activity. With the Premier League clubs spending more on average than anybody else, their lack of involvement late in the window impacts the market.
2020 Summer Olympics
This summer also features the Olympic soccer tournament from July 22 to August 8 in Japan. The men’s tournament will feature 16 nations limited to players under the age of 23 born on or after January 1, 1997, with a maximum of three overage players allowed per team. In addition to Tokyo, Kashima, Saitama, Sapporo, Sendai and Yokohama will also host games. The men’s gold-medal match is scheduled for August 8.
MLS All-Star Game
This year’s midseason showcase is set for LAFC’s Banc of California Stadium on July 29. Indicative of the growing relationship between the two leagues, this is the first MLS vs Liga MX all-star game. That’s a shift from MLS playing a foreign club and a welcome development for anybody interested in the growing rivalry between MLS and Liga MX.
We know that there will be a Leagues Cup in 2020 and that the second year of the tournament expands to 16 clubs. We also know which MLS teams will play. What we don’t know is the rest of the Liga MX side of the field aside from Monterrey or when the tournament will happen this summer. It’s an interesting experiment for both leagues, with last year’s version not shaking off comparisons to the old SuperLiga. The second time could be the charm, with Philadelphia, Toronto, DC, the Red Bulls, Real Salt Lake, Minnesota, the Galaxy, and Portland getting more games that count against Mexican clubs.
2022 World Cup Qualifying
The top six Concacaf teams, according to the FIFA rankings as of June 2020, will enter into the Hexagonal round. With only the 6th place in doubt between El Salvador and Canada, it’s the usual suspects in the Hex. Mexico, the USMNT, Costa Rica, and Honduras aren’t likely to fall any lower than 5th between now and June. The Hexagonal will again feature a round-robin format with the top three teams qualifying directly for the 2022 World Cup in Qatar. 4th-place will advance to the playoff round. The Hexagonal kicks off on August 31.
MLS Cup Playoffs/Final
The regular season ends on October 4 with Decision Day and 13 games all played at the same time. 14 teams advance to the playoffs, once again scheduled between the October and November international windows. MLS has yet to announce the date for the final.
FIFA Club World Cup
FIFA will hold the 17th edition of the FIFA Club World Cup next December, featuring the winners of the six continental confederations along with the host nation’s domestic league champions. Qatar will once again host in December 2020. It marks the final time the tournament will happen in December, shifting to an every four years schedule in the summer with an expanded field. Starting in 2021, FIFA plans to host a 24-team tournament in China over a period of three weeks starting in June.
Clemente Lisi is a regular contributor to US Soccer Players. He is also the author of A History of the World Cup: 1930-2018. Find him on Twitter:http://twitter.com/ClementeLisi.
More from Clemente Lisi:
- The USMNT in the 2010s
- The early MLS contenders
- Charlotte’s quick arrival as an MLS expansion target
- Henry the coach in Montreal
Photo by John Dorton – ISIPhotos.com