EL PASO, Texas (KTSM) – Soccer is back in El Paso. The United Soccer League (USL) and USL Player’s Association (USLPA) have agreed to terms on a return to play plan, which will resume the season on July 11. The agreement was voted on and passed by the players on Thursday and officially ratified by the league on Friday.
In a statement from the USL, the agreement includes the promise to return to the table to negotiate the first Collective Bargaining Agreement in the league’s history.
“The USL Championship and the USL Player’s Association announced today that they have reached a formal agreement on a return to play for the 2020 Championship season and will resume negotiations on a historic first Collective Bargaining Agreement in the coming weeks,” USL’s statement read.
The USLPA has been in constant communication with the league through negotiations and according the the Athletic’s Jeff Rueter, player salaries will go completely unchanged.
As part of the agreement to resume play July 11, COVID-19 testing, as well as antibody testing will be done weekly, KTSM has learned. Players have had to agree to quarantine as much as possible, though games will not be played in a hub model; instead, they will be played in home stadiums, potentially in front of fans. The issue of spectators has not yet been decided.
According to Locomotive FC goalkeeper, Logan Ketterer, the league has said that all travel for games within 500 miles will be done by bus; anything longer than 500, and each club can make its own determination. Ketterer predicted that the Eastern and Western Conferences would be broken down into smaller regions.
“I think it might look like your four Texas teams, you throw in Oklahoma City, Tulsa, Phoenix, New Mexico and Colorado Springs. That’s nine, there’s 18 in the West,” Ketterer said. “My guess is we would play home and away. I think it’ll be 16 games, I think we would play San Antonio once here and once there and there’s your 16.”
No decisions with regards to that have yet been made and a schedule has not been completed.
USL teams have been working out in groups of 10 the last few weeks and with just three weeks until re-opening day, Ketterer said he expected the league to allow full-sided, contact practices soon.
As KTSM 9 Sports first reported, MountainStar Sports Group, the group who owns El Paso Locomotive FC, has not forced any of their players to take a pay cut during the coronavirus pandemic.
The USLPA released their own statement on Friday’s agreement, but it read the same from the USL’s statement. Perhaps a sign of unity and good faith as they roll forward to resuming the season on July 11.