The USL Championship announced today that Sporting Kansas City II will join Eastern Conference clubs Indy Eleven, Louisville City FC and Saint Louis FC in one of eight regionalized groups when the league returns to play on Saturday, July 11.
Sporting KC II will face its three Group E opponents four times each during the regular season for a total of 12 matches. The remaining three games will be played against clubs that fall within a similar geographic region. With one match already played this year—a home loss to Charlotte Independence on March 8—Sporting KC II will complete a 16-game regular season ahead of the 2020 USL Championship Playoffs.
The revamped USL Championship regular season schedule, including kickoff times and venue information, will be released in the coming days.
The USL Championship unveiled on Wednesday an updated format for the remainder of the 2020 season as all 35 clubs resume play after a four-month hiatus due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Groups A-D consists of Western Conference sides, while groups E-F comprise the Eastern Conference teams. The rest of the regular season will be played over 13 weeks, concluding on the weekend of Oct. 2-4.
Clubs will initially be scheduled to play a balanced schedule of eight games home and away in the regular season. However, the league’s Board of Governors has also approved the ability for teams to play an unbalanced amount of home and away matches—if, for example, a club is experiencing difficulties with venue availability due to the impact of COVID-19.
As part of Wednesday’s announcement, the USL Championship also confirmed its playoff structure for the 2020 campaign. The top two teams from each group in the regular season will advance to the USL Championship Playoffs, producing a field of 16 teams in a regionalized, single-elimination bracket. Group winners will be paired with group runners-up in the Round of 16, with home-field advantage determined by record for the remainder of the bracket.
A formidable Group E features four clubs that have combined for six league championship appearances and 11 playoff trips dating back to 2016. Led by second-year head coach and former Sporting Kansas City midfielder Paulo Nagamura, Sporting KC II were crowned Western Conference champions in 2016 and 2017, notably falling to Louisville City FC in the 2017 USL Championship Final.
Louisville City FC is a perennial title contender, having won consecutive USL Championship titles in 2017 and 2018 before finishing as runners-up last fall. Indy Eleven, which moved from the NASL to the USL Championship in 2018, has reached the playoffs for two straight seasons and lost to Louisville in the 2019 Eastern Conference Final. As Sporting KC II’s fiercest rival, Saint Louis FC made its lone playoff appearance in 2018 prior to missing out by a single point last year.