English soccer announces congested schedule due to pandemic

LONDON (AP) — Big changes have been made to the English soccer schedule in a congested and shorter season because of the coronavirus pandemic.

Replays in the FA Cup have been scrapped “to assist in easing pressure on” the tight program, the Football Association said on Thursday.

In the English League Cup, two-leg semifinals have been replaced by a single match in January. Also, the first four rounds are scheduled to take place on consecutive weeks in September.

None of the traditional midweek dates are available in October and November which are given entirely to UEFA’s club and national-team competitions.

That means the Premier League which kicks off on Sept. 12 will have no midweek games until Dec. 15-16 — after the Champions League and Europa League group stages end.

Premier League teams will enter the League Cup in the second or third round in September, depending on if they are due to play in a European competition. Tottenham will also play in Europea League qualifying in September.

The Premier League will open one month later than usual because of the July finish to its delayed 2019-20 campaign, and the UEFA competitions continuing to Aug. 23. Manchester City are still involved in the Champions League and Manchester United have advanced to the Europa league semifinals.

Teams will get a brief midseason break in January instead of February, and the final Premier League round of fixtures will be on May 23.

That’s the last available date for domestic leagues before the UEFA club competition finals and call-ups for many players to national duty for the 24-team European Championship postponed from 2020.

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