Following swiftly upon the final agreement between the league and USL Players Association earlier this week, the USL Championship today announced the four Western Conference groups which will be formed for the modified 16 game schedule that make up the 2020 season. Under the USL plan which is scheduled to kick off on Saturday, July 11th, the majority of regular season matches will be between teams within the same group to limit travel and logistical issues.
Real Monarchs SLC played a single match on the road in San Antonio prior to to the shutdown of the league in March of 2020 which will be included in the 16 match regular season. The Monarchs remaining schedule for 2020 will consist of 4 matches against El Paso Locomotive FC, 4 matches against New Mexico United, 4 matches against Colorado Switchbacks FC and 3 matches against other Western Conference teams not included in Group C. Following the end of the regular season on the weekend of October 2-4, the top two teams in each of the 8 groups will be seeded into a single elimination Playoff.
It is also important to note that there is no assurance that individual teams are not mandated to play a balanced regular season schedule with an equal number of home and away games to allow for venue availability and COVID-19 restrictions in the various locations. With the NWSL 2020 Challenge Cup matches taking place at Zions Bank Stadium through at least the first two weekends of the Return To Play schedule it seems unlike that the Monarchs will have any home matches until nearly August.
Although limiting travel was given as a major factor in the decision to go with group play in the USL Championship regular season, the Monarchs will still be traveling 600 miles to Colorado Springs and Albuquerque and 860 miles to El Paso. The longest trip in Group A will be 720 miles from Reno and Sacramento to Tacoma. The longest in Group B will be Phoenix to Los Angeles which is 370 miles. And finally the longest trip in Group D will be between Tulsa and Edinburg which is 767 miles.
A further consideration is the small size of the Monarchs roster which stood at 18 total players with only a single goalkeeper at the time the league shutdown. With their parent club, Real Salt Lake, quarantined in Orlando and needing a large playerpool to accommodate the allowable 5 substitutes and any injuries with their return to play, the Monarchs will need to expand their squad or stay very healthy to make it through a 16 match regular season.