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MLS announces next phase of 2020 league schedule

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MLS announced its schedule for the next phase of its regular season, revealing the next three games for each team through the end of September. The league also announced its format for the 2020 MLS Cup playoffs.

MLS added that "additional 2020 MLS regular season matches will be announced pending further developments regarding travel protocols."

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With a few exceptions, teams will continue to host matches in their home markets, and each team will adhere to comprehensive health and safety protocols, including regular testing of players, coaches and essential staff for COVID-19.

Because of travel restrictions between the U.S. and Canada, including a 14-day quarantine period for people entering Canada from the U.S., the league's three Canadian teams will be forced to play each of their next three games in the U.S. This includes a "home" match at a U.S. venue. The Montreal Impact will host the Philadelphia Union at Red Bull Arena in Harrison, N.J. on Sept. 20, the Vancouver Whitecaps will play the Portland Timbers at Providence Park in Portland on Sept. 27, and, most notably, Toronto FC will take on the Columbus Crew at Pratt & Whitney Stadium at Rentschler Field in Hartford, Conn. on Sept. 27.

"While we continue to work with government officials on our travel protocols, it is important to the club to have our own home away from home during this next phase," said Toronto FC President Bill Manning.

"The state of Connecticut opened their arms for us and my compliments to David Lehman and Governor Lamont for their leadership here. Pratt & Whitney Stadium at Rentschler Field is a great venue. They've hosted a number of international games and we're excited to play there."

Pratt & Whitney Stadium, which serves as home for the University of Connecticut's football team, has hosted numerous international soccer matches, many involving the U.S. men's and women's national teams. It also served last year as a temporary home for Hartford Athletic of the USL Championship while that team's stadium was under construction.

"Pratt & Whitney Stadium is an ideal location for professional soccer, and I am excited that we've reached an agreement with Toronto FC to have the club play their home games here," Lamont said. "Our state is filled with thousands of MLS fans who no doubt will be excited by this news."

MLS also confirmed on Friday the format for the 2020 MLS Cup playoffs. The postseason will again consist of single-elimination matches hosted by the higher-seeded team and follow a straight bracket format through MLS Cup on Dec.12.

As previously announced, 18 clubs -- an increase from last season's 14 teams -- will compete in the 2020 MLS Cup Playoffs. Eight teams from the 12-team Western Conference will qualify directly to Round 1. The top six seeds from the 14-team Eastern Conference will qualify directly to Round 1. Eastern Conference seeds 7-10 will each compete in a play-in match (No. 7 vs. No. 10, and No. 8 vs. No. 9) to determine the two additional Eastern Conference teams that will qualify for the Audi 2020 MLS Cup Playoffs Round 1.

The lower-seeded advancing team will face the Eastern Conference No. 1 seed in Round 1, while the higher-seeded advancing team will face the Eastern Conference No. 2 seed.

Information from the Associated Press was used in this report.