Photo by Tim Sullivan/For Club and Country
From League release:
NEW YORK (Feb. 13, 2021) – Major League Soccer today announced an update to the MLS club preseason report dates. With the MLS regular season kicking off the weekend of April 17, MLS players will report on March 1 for a seven-day quarantine period, medical exams, and testing prior to the team training start date on March 8. The new preseason report date allows for six weeks of training before Major League Soccer’s 26th season kicks off.Major League Soccer release
Players may begin their seven-day quarantine period prior to March 1 on a voluntary basis. In such cases, players may conduct individual training during the quarantine period, or may engage in group training following the seven-day quarantine period provided that each player has conducted medical exams and testing. Technical staffs and coaches may not be present during group trainings prior to March 1.
Scotiabank Concacaf Champions League Round of 16
Four MLS teams have already qualified for the 2021 Scotiabank Concacaf Champions League Round-of-16, set to kick off April 6-7: Atlanta United, Columbus Crew SC, Philadelphia Union, and Portland Timbers. The four competing teams may require players to report on Feb. 24 to begin the required seven-day quarantine, with a team training start date of March 3. On a voluntary basis, players may begin their quarantine period prior to Feb. 24. In such case, players may conduct individual training during the quarantine period and may engage in group training prior to March 3 provided that each player in the group training has conducted medical exams and testing. Technical staffs and coaches for Atlanta, Columbus, Philadelphia, and Portland may not be present during group trainings prior to Feb. 24.
Canadian Championship Final
In preparation for the Canadian Championship Final, Toronto FC are permitted to open training camp on Feb. 17, provided that all players participating in team training have conducted a seven-day quarantine period, medical exams, and testing. Importantly, players and staff returning to Canada are required to quarantine for 14 days upon entry into the country in compliance with Health Canada guidelines.
MLS will announce additional details of the 2021 regular season schedule in the coming weeks.
Since Nashville is not participating in the Concacaf Champions League or – for some reason – the Canadian Championship, NSC’s report date will be the league’s broader March 1 date, with training sessions to begin March 8. I would imagine the majority of Nashville’s players report “voluntarily” (I think we all have a handle on what this means in a sports context) as early as possible to begin some small-group work before camp officially begins.
We’re still waiting on the regular-season schedule. Though the release does note that it’s arriving “in the coming weeks,” that’s not particularly enlightening given it could mean tomorrow or it could mean April 16. In all likelihood, the league won’t ask teams to begin their training camps without knowing who they’ll be playing in the regular season – they have to, like, prepare for those games – so I would expect some time before March 8 (and possibly before March 1).
My speculation with no inside info is that squads will play every team in their own conference twice: for Nashville, that would mean first-ever games with FC Cincinnati, New York City FC, New York Red Bulls, and Philadelphia Union in the East – those games are all-but guaranteed to happen, even if the home-and-home structure doesn’t hold. I would anticipate out-of-conference crossover games prioritizing the teams they didn’t play last year, which for NSC would be Colorado Rapids, LAFC, Los Angeles Galaxy, Real Salt Lake, San Jose Earthquakes, Seattle Sounders, and Vancouver Whitecaps. Nashville really didn’t play a ton of Western Conference teams for a squad that started the year in the West (and didn’t even come particularly close to hitting every East team, either). Austin FC will likely be prioritized even above those, with recent-expansion matchups seeming to be a priority when possible.
If NSC plays home-and-home with every Eastern Conference team, that would take up 26 games on the schedule, with eight non-conference games available (this could mean getting every team currently in MLS onto the “historical opponents” list, with eight yet to be added).