USL announces revamped regular season, playoff bracket

The USL Championship announced its return-to-play format for the 2020 season on Wednesday.

- Watch and stream USL matches on ESPN and ESPN+

The league, which has been shut down since March 12, remains tentatively scheduled to return on July 11.

"It's exciting for us to get back on the field," said USL President Jake Edwards. "It's been a long few months for us all and hopefully the return of USL Championship soccer in our own venues, and in our own communities, serves as some much needed good news for USL fans across the country."

In a bid to regionalize the competition, and reduce travel, the league has been divided into eight groups -- five groups of four teams along with three groups of five teams -- that will see the clubs take part in a 16-game regular season. The top two sides from each group in the regular season will advance to the 2020 USL Championship Playoffs, producing a field of 16 teams overall in a regionalized, single-elimination bracket.

Each team's regular season schedule will be made up of 12 games from within its own group, with the remaining four games to be played against sides that fall within a similar geographic region. As a result, each team placed in a four-team group will play its three fellow group members four times, while each club placed in a five-team group will play its four fellow group members three times.

The regular season will take place over 13 weeks and conclude on the weekend of Oct. 2. Any games that took place prior to the season shutdown on March 12 will count towards the 16-game schedule. The plan is for each team to play an equal number of home and away games, though local restrictions could result in an imbalance for some squads.

When the playoffs commence, the group winners will be paired with group runners-up in the Round of 16, with home advantage being determined by record for the remainder of the bracket.

The USL Championship will allow five substitutes to be used for the remainder of the 2020 season, with each team having three opportunities to make its substitutions during regular play. Substitutions may also be made at halftime without counting against a club's three in-game opportunities.