On Monday, the USL Championship Task Force, in conjunction with an affirmative vote by the league’s Board of Governors, announced its current training moratorium will be lifted, effective Wednesday, June 24. This will pave the way for a return to full-squad training for all league clubs, including the Pittsburgh Riverhounds SC.
Clubs may not start contact training until June 24 and must have approval from local and state health authorities and USL HQ. With Allegheny County being in the green phase of re-opening, all signs are pointing to the Pittsburgh Riverhounds SC returning to training as a full squad very soon.
On June 4, the USL Championship Board of Governors voted in favor of returning to play for the 2020 season, with a provisional start date set for July 11. While additional information on competition format, scheduling, broadcast and other important details are still being worked out.
Last week saw two significant developments took place that further opened the possibility of the USL Championship season’s return. The first came when The Championship and its players association reached a tentative, unprecedented agreement regarding a 2020 season restart.
USLPA statement on return to play: pic.twitter.com/NsIXX3wNpV
— USLPA (@USLPlayers) June 19, 2020
Then, on Friday, The Athletic’s Jeff Rueter reported in more detail, on the plan which will allow the second-division Championship to resume play in clubs’ home markets, albeit with health and safety procedures in place to guard against the COVID-19 pandemic. That article highlighted an extensive 48-page document outlining the USL Championship’s plan with focus on the following: player testing and safety, travel and lodging, match day procedures and fans.
Regarding player testing and safety, here are some of the expected protocols:
- Players will take polymerase chain reaction (PCR) tests three days prior to the resumption of contact training.
- Teams will not be able to resume contact training until all test results are reported.
- Once training resumes, players will take PCR tests every two weeks. PCR and antibody tests will be mandatory three days before any game, including scrimmages.
- Once league games resume, PCR tests will become weekly occurrences.
- Before training players and staff will have their temperature screened and take daily questionnaires.
- Any person with a temperature over 100.4º F will immediately be sent home.
In addition, various sources have cited that the USL Championship will likely be utilizing a regionalized schedule format. This proposed schedule would provide for less travel and a smaller pool of teams. A few of those projections include splitting the USL Championship’s existing Eastern and Western Conferences. This would likely leave the Riverhounds in an eight or nine team division or sub-conference. The clubs the Hounds would most likely be aligned with will include: NY Red Bulls II, Loudoun United, Louisville City FC, Philadelphia Union II (formerly Bethlehem Steel FC), Saint Louis FC, Sporting KC II (formerly Swope Park Rangers) and Indy Eleven.
On a side note, former Riverhounds goalkeeper, Trey Mitchell, has been very involved with the start-up of the USLPA going back to 2017. The unprecedented agreement was signed by five parties: USL general counsel Garrison Mason, USLPA general counsel Paul Kelly, and USLPA executive members Tom Heinemann, Connor Tobin and Mitchell.
Great news for players: no wage cuts, and if a team does not play in 2020 for whatever reason, they will be held accountable to pay its players.
Nice to see former Riverhound GK @treyS4G doing his part — serving as @USLPA executive member https://t.co/hAvO8u9h9B
— John Krysinsky (@JohnKrysinsky) June 19, 2020
On Monday, when reaching out to the Riverhounds, the club’s Director of Communications, Tony Picardi, shared that it’s undetermined when the club will officially start with full-sided training. Picardi confirmed that they won’t begin full team sessions on Wednesday, but will be aiming full-squad sessions in the near future.
Riverhounds SC Head Coach Bob Lilley has been doing everything he can to get his team ready for when they’re ready to return to action.
“The league (USL Championship) has many scenarios — from starting in June or as late as August. There’s still a lot of concern what will happen in September and October,” Lilley said in May. “We’re very limited. As staff we’re doing what we can do. What we need to do and doing the best job we can.”