TORONTO — The USL League Two, home to soccer teams in Thunder Bay, Winnipeg, Calgary and Vancouver, has cancelled the 2020 season due to the global pandemic.
The Canadian clubs, facing travel restrictions at the border, had already pulled the plug on their participation this season.
The USL, meanwhile, extended its temporary suspension of the 2020 season for its top two leagues: the Championship and League One. The previous suspension ran through May 10.
The USL leagues are below Major League Soccer in the U.S. soccer pyramid. Toronto FC 2 plays in USL League One.
The league said it will look to regional exhibition schedules for USL League Two during the summer and fall months in areas "where it is deemed safe."
"The momentum our clubs have built in League Two across the country in recent years has been tremendous, and today's announcement — while disappointing — will do nothing to alter that," USL League Two vice-president Joel Nash said in a statement.
"We will continue to support soccer being played when and where possible in 2020 and use this time to get even stronger as a league and look forward to returning to competitive action better than ever before in 2021."
The Thunder Bay Chill, FC Manitoba, Calgary Foothills FC and Vancouver TSS FC Rovers all play in League Two, formerly known as the Premier Development League (PDL).
The six teams in the Northwest Division, including Vancouver and Calgary, had already decide to forgo participation this season because of the challenges playing in multiple states and provinces during the health crisis.
Thunder Bay had also already decided not to play this season for the same reasons.
In an April 10 open letter, FC Manitoba said it would not play in the league's Heartland Division, which includes Thunder Bay, because of border issues but was still hoping to play a "competitive schedule." It did not elaborate.
With 16 clubs joining in the off-season, League Two had looked forward to a season with 81 teams competing in 12 divisions. The season was to kick off May 12.
The USL said it will await further guidance and clarity from local, state and national health authorities before announcing a new return to play date for its top two divisions.
Both leagues have also extended their respective team training moratoriums through May 15. But the USL says it is exploring scenarios that would allow for players to return to training facilities to conduct individual or small group work prior to May 15.
Any re-opening of club facilities will be done in accordance with government guidelines as well as physical distancing protocols, it said.
The USL says it is still in a position to reschedule all matches in both leagues. And, while a complete season remains the preferred plan, alternative competitive formats are being explored.
This report by The Canadian Press was first published April 30, 2020.
The Canadian Press