On Thursday afternoon, North Carolina FC announced its 15-game schedule for the truncated USL Championship season. The USL announced the format for the return to play on June 24 with the league being split into eight groups and each team playing a total of 16 games, including any games that happened prior to the league being halted due to COVID-19.
“We are very much looking forward to the resumption of our season,” said North Carolina FC head coach Dave Sarachan in a press release. “The 15 games that we have scheduled will give us a very good test of where we are as a team. Our focus is to compete and be successful as a group.”
NCFC will compete in Group G along with Birmingham Legion FC, Charlotte Independence and Memphis 901 FC. Each team will play 12 games against teams within its group and an additional four games against teams within a “similar geographic region”. Prior to the league being halted, NCFC lost its season opener 1-0 to Louisville CIty on March 7 and the game will count as one of its out-of-group games.
“It’s been a long long time since our last game against Louisville,” said NCFC captain Nazmi Albadawi in a press release. “We’re eager to get the season going and get some positive results.”
The other three out-of-group games for NCFC will be on July 17 away against the Tampa Bay Rowdies (the team’s first game of the restart), Aug. 19 at home against the Charleston Battery and Oct. 4 away at Loudoun United (the team’s final game of the regular season). The game against Tampa Bay will be broadcast on ESPN 2 at 7 p.m..
Following the regular season, the USL Championship will have a 16-team regionalized single elimination bracket with the top two teams from each group qualifying for the playoffs. Group winners will receive home-field advantage and be matched up against group runners-up.
The club stated in the schedule announcement that it is “working with local and state officials to determine the feasibility of welcoming fans back to Sahlen’s Stadium. The Club will communicate further information as it is received and will provide options for season ticket holders, groups, and individuals who have purchased tickets to games that have been rescheduled for dates in the near future.”
The Real Monarchs, who will compete in Group C, have already announced plans to have 5,300 fans in attendance at their game against San Diego Loyal FC on July 11. The game will take place at the Rio Tinto Stadium in Sandy, Utah, the same venue of the semi-final and final of the NWSL Challenge Cup. The stadium seats a maximum of 20,700 fans and would be the first game with fans in attendance in the US since March 11.