TAMPA, Fla. - Saint Louis FC has been drawn into Group E along with Louisville City FC, Indy Eleven FC and Sporting Kansas City II, all local rivals, as the United Soccer League USL Championship gets ready to resume play on July 11.
The 33 teams in the USL Championship, considered the second tier of American soccer behind top-tier Major League Soccer, suspended its season in March, due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Only the opening week of the 2020 season was played before the suspension, but the league and its players' union, the USL Players Association, successfully ended talks on how and when play would resume. STLFC had won its only match played thus far, a 4-1 home win over first-year expansion team The Miami FC.
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Saint Louis FC is in its fifth year of operations in the USL, and plays their home games at West Community Credit Union Stadium at World Wide Technology Soccer Park in Fenton, Mo. Granite City native and 1990 United States World Cup team member Steve Trittschuh is the team's head coach, while former Edwardsville standout and Wake Forest player Sam Fink is the team's captain.
The Eastern and Western Conferences of the league were redrawn into eight groups, with four or five teams in each group, based on geographical lines, and in the case of STLFC, will have local rivals in their group. The rivalry between St. Louis FC and Louisville City FC is considered one of the league's best, and the two teams compete for a traveling trophy known as the Kings Cup.
Each team will play a 16-game schedule, with previous results from before the suspension of play being counted in the standings. In the case of Group E, each team will play each other double home-and-home, two matches each at home and two matches on the road, with remaining matches to be played against teams in the same geographic region. The schedule will be released at a later date.
Groups A through D will consist of Western Conference teams, while Groups E through H are Eastern Conference teams. Group A will consist of Portland Timbers 2, Reno 1868 FC, Sacramento Republic FC and Tacoma Defiance. Group B will be Los Angeles Galaxy II, Las Vegas Lights FC, Orange County SC, Phoenix Rising FC and first-year club San Diego Loyal FC. Group C will contain Colorado Springs Switchbacks FC, El Paso Locomotive FC, New Mexico United FC and defending USL Cup champions Real Monarchs Salt Lake City. Group D will have Austin Bold FC, Oklahoma City Energy FC, Rio Grande Valley Toros FC, San Antonio FC and FC Tulsa.
In Group F will be Hartford Athletic FC, Loudoun United FC in the northern Virginal suburbs of Washington, New York Red Bulls II, Philadelphia Union II and Pittsburgh River hounds SC. Group G will have Birmingham Legion FC, Charlotte Independence, Memphis 901 FC and North Carolina FC. Group H will be Atlanta United 2, Charleston Battery, The Miami FC and Tampa Bay Rowdies FC.
Matches are set to go on through the weekend of Oct. 2-4, with the top two teams in each group qualifying for the playoffs. The playoffs will be a 16-team, single elimination tournament, with the two survivors facing off for the USL Cup in late October or early November. In the Round of 16, group winners will face the runners-up in the opposite group; for example, the Group E winner will platy Group F runner-up, and the Group E runner-up plays the Group F winner. Home field will be determined by best record.
Also, five substitutions instead of three will be allowed in any match, in accordance to FIFA rules adopted recently as many of the major European and national leagues began returning to play this month. Teams will have three opportunities throughout the match to make its substitutions, and any substitutions made at halftime will not count in the three opportunity rule.
Announcements regarding live fan attendance, television coverage and other issues will be made at a later date.
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