With the United Soccer League (USL) season set to return on July 11, 901 FC learned its placement in the league’s provisional format for the remainder of the 2020 season. Set in Group G, the team will compete against Birmingham Legion, Charlotte Independence, and North Carolina FC.
“This group will be great for our club, our fans, and our supporters as we form strong regional rivalries with these teams,” says 901 FC President Craig Unger. “We are excited to see our full schedule and return to the pitch.”
- photo courtesy Memphis 901 FC
- Goalkeeper and part-owner Tim Howard gives instructions during the season opener against Indy Eleven
The new USL format sees teams separated into eight groups based on region. Each squad will play a total of 16 regular season matches, including matches played before the league was suspended on March 12th. Factoring in the season opener against Indy Eleven, Memphis will play only 15 more regular season games. That means 901 FC will face off with each team in its group four times for its first 12 games. The remaining three matches, according to the USL, will be played against “teams that fall within a similar geographic region” (this is speculation only, but potential matchups for these games could include Saint Louis FC, Atlanta United 2, or Louisville City FC).
Schedules will be balanced to feature eight home and away games, but that may change for some organizations based on venue availability due to COVID-19. The top two teams from each group will advance to the playoffs, with group winners paired against runners-up in the round of 16.
The rest of the regular season will be played over a 13-week span set to conclude on the weekend of October 2nd-4th. The USL is expected to release a full schedule with dates and times in the next few weeks.
In addition to the group format, the return to play will feature some temporary rule changes. The number of available substitutions per match jumps from three to five, although coaches will have only three opportunities to make their five substitutions (a halftime sub will not count against total opportunities).
901 FC’s Group G opponents finished above Memphis in the 2019 Eastern Conference standings:
7. North Carolina FC (56 points)
10. Birmingham Legion FC (43 points)
13. Charlotte Independence (38 points)
15. Memphis 901 FC (34 points)
In head-to-head matchups, Memphis came away with two draws and four losses. However, each loss was by only a single goal.
Before the season was delayed by the coronavirus pandemic, Memphis showed positive signs in a 2-4 home loss to Indy Eleven.