EDINBURG — The United Soccer League Championship (USL) has been forced to adjust its 2020 season due to the COVID-19 pandemic, and the new look format has been revealed.

The USL is planning to complete a 16-game regular season currently scheduled to begin on July 11 with the 35 USL clubs divided into eight different groups, based on their location, in order to limit travel.

The RGV FC Toros have been placed in Group D along with four other teams — Texas rivals San Antonio FC and Austin Bold FC, along with OKC Energy FC and FC Tulsa.

“This is a very tough group with very good teams, regional rivalries and tough home field advantages,” RGV FC head coach Gerson Echeverry said in a news release. “Every point will count and we need to be ready for some fierce battles in a short amount of time.”

Each team’s schedule will be made up of 12 games from within its own group, with the remaining four games to be played against teams that fall within a region close in proximity. The regular season will be played over 13 weeks, concluding the weekend of October 2-4.

RGV FC, which has been placed in a five-team group, will play its four fellow group members three times.

Teams will be initially scheduled to play a balanced schedule of eight games home and away in the regular season. However, the USL Board of Governors has also approved the ability for clubs to play an unbalanced amount of home and away matches, depending if clubs are experiencing COVID-19 impacts in their respective communities.

A full schedule with dates and kickoff times will be announced in the coming days.

As for the USL Championship playoff structure,  the top two teams from each of the eight groups in the regular season will advance to the 2020 USL Championship playoffs, producing a field of 16 teams overall in a regionalized single-elimination bracket. Group winners will be paired with group runners-up in the Round of 16, with home advantage to be determined by record for the remainder of the bracket.

The USL also announced it will allow five substitutes to be used in matches  for the remainder of the 2020 season. The number of substitutes represents an increase from the three substitutions rule that had been in place. However, to avoid disruption to the game, each team will only have three opportunities to make all of its allotted five substitutions.

bramos@themonitor.com