The 2020 League One season will get underway on Saturday night with one of the league’s new clubs in Fort Lauderdale CF taking on Greenville Triumph SC.
But following the full release of the League One schedule today, we have a whole lot more to dig into and a roadmap to the League One Final at the end of October. Here are 10 games I think you should have your eyes on as the second season in league history progresses.
The first game of the new season for both North Texas SC and Forward Madison FC will bring us immediately back to the 2019 postseason, where Head Coach Eric Quill’s side took victory against the Flamingos on its way to the title. There may be plenty of new faces in North Texas’ lineup this campaign, with the likes of Brecc Evans (Austin Bold FC) and 2019 League One Most Valuable Player Arturo Rodriguez (Real Monarchs SLC) now on loan in the Championship, which means Madison’s returning core led by captain Connor Tobin and new arrivals like Wojciech Wojcik will be looking for revenge in NTSC’s first game at its new home of Globe Life Park.
Completed in almost a year to the day from its groundbreaking on July 9, 2019, CHI Memorial Stadium will officially open as the permanent home of Chattanooga Red Wolves SC when the side welcomes FC Tucson for an intriguing early-season clash. Much has changed at the Red Wolves in addition to its home venue with Jimmy Obleda now leading the club on the sideline. There are some key figures back at the club on the playing side, however, with All-League selections Steven Beattie, Alex Mangels and Ualefi set to lead the way against a Tucson side that has undergone a major transformation itself since the arrival of Amanda Powers as the club’s new President.
Tucson’s 10th season arrives with the club undergoing major changes throughout the organization. In addition to Amanda Powers’ appointment as President after her role in the launch of the USL Championship’s New Mexico United over the past two years, the side has a new Head Coach in John Galas and plenty of new faces in its prospective opening day lineup. At its home opener against League One newcomer Union Omaha, we may see early indicators on the progressions of both teams, with Omaha and Head Coach Jay Mims having high expectations for its inaugural campaign and Tucson aiming to return to the success it found as a playoff regular in USL League Two before joining the professional ranks last year.
The Richmond Kickers have held a proud tradition as one of the two longest-operating professional clubs in the United States alongside longtime rivals the Charleston Battery, but recent years have seen the club’s on-field performance slide, including a ninth-place finish last season. So, the club’s new leadership went in a new direction bringing in Darren Sawatzky as its Head Coach for the 2020 season, and in this clash he’ll get his first chance to go up against his former club FC Tucson at the cozy environs of City Stadium. The Kickers are used to being a title contender, having won the 2013 Championship Regular Season Title. Their start to this new season – including this game – will be an indicator as to whether the glory days are getting ready to return.
Union Omaha has been generating a serious buzz about its arrival in League One since the launch of its name and brand last year, with a passionate fanbase excited to welcome to the team to the city. Do you know whose launch that sounds a lot like? Forward Madison FC’s before its inaugural season, and with Madison looking to build on a season in which it reached the playoffs at the first try and Omaha looking to match that with a squad that matched up well with good Championship opposition in the Wasatch Winter Cup back in February, this could be the start of a very good rivalry between the two Midwest clubs.
South Georgia Tormenta FC got the upper hand on Greenville Triumph SC in the first game in League One’s history a year ago, but Triumph SC got the last laugh when it advanced all the way to the League One Final while Tormenta FC’s season faded in the second half of the campaign. These two regional rivals have built up a very good rivalry in a short space of time, which means their mid-season meeting at Erk Russell Park should have some good stakes not only in the race to be one of the teams in this year’s League One Final but for bragging rights over the other.
Arriving a month before the conclusion of the campaign, the lone regular-season rematch of the 2019 League One Final was always going to be a must-see between Greenville and North Texas, but it could also mark the start of one club’s run to reach the Final for a second consecutive year. By this point, we’ll certainly know if the new faces expected to step up for North Texas have lived up to their billing. If they have, then this could be a make-or-break game for both clubs’ title aspirations as well as a game full of talent on both sides.
It’ll be a welcome back to Richmond for New England Revolution II Head Coach Clint Peay when his side visits the Kickers to start the final month of the season, with the former sideline boss at the University of Richmond – say nothing of a standout player at the University of Virginia during his playing days – leading his first-year side into City Stadium. Given the relationship between the Spiders and the Kickers prior to the men’s soccer program being sidelined, you’d imagine there will be a warm welcome awaiting Peay from the likes of former Kickers Head Coach and Spiders alum Leigh Cowlishaw and others, but with the playoffs in sight, the action on the field should be highly compelling as well.
Forward Madison FC finished three points ahead of Chattanooga Red Wolves SC for the fourth and final place in the 2019 USL League One Playoffs, and there could be just as much on the line when the two teams meet at CHI Memorial Stadium in the penultimate weekend of the regular season. Both sides produced a late surge in the season while vying for a playoff position, and with the attacking potential brought on both sides from Steven Beattie, Eamon Zayed and Amirgy Pineda for Chattanooga and Don Smart, Paulo Jr. and Wojciech Wojcik for Madison, it could prove a very entertaining contest as well.
For the first half of the 2019 season, one of the biggest storylines was the blistering pace both North Texas SC and South Georgia Tormenta FC set to start the year. NTSC reached the midway point of its season with 30 points from 14 games, while Tormenta FC had 25. We know what happened after that, with North Texas surging on to win not only the League One Regular Season Title but the inaugural League One Final as well, but with Tormenta FC bringing in some strong new recruits to add to a crop of players that have now experienced a full professional season for the first time, there’s a chance this game could end up deciding which team advances for a chance to play for a title the following weekend.