United set for return as USL releases updated 2020 schedule

Around the world, sports have largely been shut down since March and the emergence of the coronavirus pandemic. That’s all about to change though. As some of the European football leagues are reaching the ends of their resumed seasons, the USL and MLS are both set to restart.

The USL Championship previously announced that their top tier clubs would play an abbreviated 16 match season. To help facilitate the reduced schedule, the clubs were also divided into geographic regions, each designed to reduce the amount of travel for the clubs. Even with that plan in place there are some quirks to it.

Each club is set to play 4 matches against each of the other clubs in their respective group. However, any clubs that played prior to the shut down, will have fewer matches to play after the restart. What exactly does that mean for United?

Based on the geographic regions set out by the USL, United find themselves in Group 3. Real Salt Lake, El Paso, and Colorado Springs round out the rest of the group for this unique season. Prior to the shutdown, each of the clubs in the group had played one match, and United currently sits third after their season opening loss to Austin Bold FC.

While many had hoped that United would be grouped with Phoenix Rising FC, the rivalry hasn’t been forgotten by the USL leadership. Since each club is only playing 16 matches, United would be a few short if they only played within the group. The full schedule, which was announced earlier today, has Phoenix traveling to Albuquerque on August 8th for a rematch of one of the better rivalries from 2019. The remaining non-group matches for United will be against Oklahoma City Energy FC and Rio Grande Valley Toros FC.

The full United schedule has been annouced and the remaining matches are as follows:

  • Saturday, July 11 at Colorado Springs Switchbacks FC
  • Wednesday, July 15 at El Paso Locomotive FC
  • Friday, July 24 at El Paso Locomotive FC
  • Wednesday, July 29 against Real Monarchs SLC
  • Friday, August 1 at Oklahoma City Energy FC
  • Saturday, August 8 against Phoenix Rising FC
  • Saturday, August 15 against Colorado Springs Switchbacks FC
  • Saturday, August 22 at Real Monarchs SLC
  • Saturday, August 29 at Colorado Springs Switchbacks FC
  • Saturday, September 5 against El Paso Locomotive FC
  • Saturday, September 12 at Real Monarchs SLC
  • Saturday, September 19 against Colorado Springs Switchbacks FC
  • Wednesday, September 23 against Rio Grande Valley Toros FC
  • Saturday, September 26 at El Paso Locomotive FC
  • Wednesday, September 30 against Real Monachs SLC

The challenges faced by the clubs has resulted in other changes as well. IFAB approved the use of five substitutions per match, up from the traditional three, until the end of the season.

When it comes to the playoffs, the top two clubs from each group will make up the 16 club format that has been determined for this season. As we get closer to that, we’ll lay out the playoff possibilities and how the pairings will be handled by the league.

Of more immediate concern for United supports is what will happen in terms of location and broadcasts. The answer to the first is that United will play all of their home matches this year at the UNM soccer complex.

“During this pandemic we all have to do more. The opportunity to provide our facility to New Mexico United is another example of of our continued partnership with our community,” said Eddie Nunez, Director of Athletics for The University of New Mexico.

The change in venue is due to the usage of Isotopes Park by the Colorado Rockies, the MLB affiliate of the Isotopes.

“We’ve had a lot of dialogue with New Mexico United, UNM, the Rockies and the City of Albuquerque throughout this process and we wish and his group nothing but success in launching their season,” said John Traub, Vice President/General Manager of the Albuquerque Isotopes. “There have been such an unusual set of variables at play and the collaboration to come to this decision has been impressive, Lets all hope and pray the virus allows all the planning to come to fruition.”

United supporters will be happy to know that every match of the 2020 season will be broadcast among the ESPN family of networks. Matches can be seen on ESPN2, ESPNews, ESPN Deportes and ESPN+. Exact channel information will be announced at a later time. All of the matches will be broadcast locally on ESPN Radio 101.7 The TEAM and we’ve been told a tv rights deal is still a possibility.

It’s been a long time since United took to the pitch and while this season will no doubt look and feel different, the excitement around this club and the return of sports to the United States is something to look forward to. Stay with us as we continue to cover United as best we can throughout this season and going forward.