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And We’re Back!

The USL Championship announced this morning the matchups and schedule for their first weekend of their return-to-play since having the season paused back in March. The matchups are as follows (all times MST):

The USL Championship will be returning to play next weekend. They have announced their initial slate of matches for the opening weekend.

Saturday, July 11

  • San Diego Loyal SC at Real Monarchs SLC, Zions Bank Stadium, 2 p.m.(ESPN Deportes)
  • St. Louis FC at Indy Eleven, Lucas Oil Stadium, 5 p.m.
  • Atlanta United 2 at Tampa Bay Rowdies, Al Lang Stadium, 5:30pm
  • New Mexico United at Colorado Springs Switchbacks FC, Weidner Field, 6 p.m.
  • Rio Grande Valley FC at El Paso Locomotive FC, Southwest University Park, 7:30 p.m.
  • LA Galaxy II at Phoenix Rising FC, Casino Arizona Field, 8 p.m. (ESPN Deportes)

Sunday, July 12

  • Pittsburgh Riverhounds SC at Louisville City FC, Lynn Family Stadium, 3:00 p.m. (ESPN 2/ESPN Deportes)

Monday, July 13

  • FC Tulsa at Oklahoma City Energy FC, Taft Stadium, 5 p.m. (ESPN 2)
  • Tacoma Defiance at Sacramento Republic FC, Papa Murphy’s Park, 8 p.m. (ESPN Deportes)

A few things jump out at me after looking at this first slate of matches. Here’s my initial thoughts:

National Exposure:

How many high level sports are happening in the United States at this moment? NASCAR, PGA, NWSL. The NWSL was the first team sport to return this summer, but viewership is locked behind the paywall of CBS All Access, which may impede the visibility of the highest women’s soccer league in this country. (It’s absolutely worth the $5.99 monthly subscription fee to watch these women play). This presents a unique opportunity for USL, as the ESPN broadcasting platforms are much more readily available, the league has an opportunity to welcome new fans who are itching for sports to watch. The nationally broadcast games on ESPN Deportes and ESPN 2 are a welcome sight to see.

New Digs:

Speaking of national broadcasts, the only match on Saturday evening will be on two networks and will feature Louisville City FC’s brand new Lynn Family Stadium. What a great opportunity for the club to highlight their new home.

Group Love:

Last week, the league announced the 8 groups that would be competing in a 16 game regional format this season. New Mexico United will be a member of group C, which includes El Paso, Colorado Springs and Salt Lake City. Three of these first weekend matches involve teams that are not members of the same groups: San Diego vs. Real Monarchs, El Paso vs. RGV, and Pittsburgh vs. Louisville. My first thought was that this was meant to balance out the games in March that will count toward the final standings, but were played by teams from different groups. For Example, New Mexico United’s loss to Austin Bold FC does count as one of the 16 games this season. The closer I looked, I realized that all four teams in Group C played a single match against teams in other groups back in March. This begs the question of how many cross-group matches we will see as the remainder of the schedule is unveiled. With any luck, New Mexico United will get a chance to face Phoenix Rising FC before the playoffs begin.

Worth Your Time:

Beside the United vs. Switchbacks game, which of course we’ll be tuning into, three other matchups caught me eye. The first is San Diego vs. Monarchs. In that match we’ll get a chance to look at a group C opponent taking on the newcomers in the Western Conference. Secondly, Pittsburgh vs. Louisville should be an intriguing matchup, both due to the new stadium and the quality of the Eastern Conference clubs. Finally on Monday, I’ll be tuning in to Tulsa vs. Oklahoma City as local local rivals face off for the Black Gold Derby. Both of those squads have the potential to be exciting teams this season, though there are some unknowns as to just how talented they’ll be.

We’ll keep an eye out for the reveal of the rest of the return-to-play schedule, and we’ll also be providing updates in the way of group previews, match previews and match recaps for New Mexico United. Stay tuned to Seek and Strike for all the information you’ll need surrounding this increasingly bizarre 2020 USL Championship season.

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