While the year is only five days old, it is clear that 2021 is a year full of soccer! The European leagues continue to go on as they are in the middle of their 2020/2021 schedules, but there is much more on the horizon!
2021 is a year full of soccer
2021 presents a soccer fan’s heaven-like scenario; soccer all the time. Soccer fans are used to having leagues all around the world dominate their free time, especially when rooting interests are involved. However, this year there are six major international soccer competitions that will take place on top of the normal league competitions.
Covid-19 caused many international competitions in 2020 to be postponed to this year. On average, there are maybe two-three big international competitions each summer; think the World Cup or the Olympics. 2021 sees that number doubled due to the postponements.
For Philadelphia Union fans, the MLS season and other competitions that coincide with that league’s return, are just the tip of the iceberg for soccer viewing this year. Let’s take a look at all of these great things that are yet to come in 2021!
CONCACAF Champions League (Feb.)
Philadelphia Union fans will be ready to see their team for the first time in this international club competition! Philly and go head-to-head with the best teams from North America, Central America and the Caribbean in a 16 team tournament.
The dates and times for this are still TBD. Once that is set, Philly will learn who they face in the Round of 16 as they will be drawn against a team from either South America or the Caribbean! The teams will play two-legged home-and-away matches to determine who moves on in each round; except in the final which is winner takes all!
This tournament usually takes place between February and May, so get ready to get CONCACAF’ed as soon as next month!
SheBelieves Cup (Feb?)
The SheBelieves Cup will make its return in 2021! The annual tournament will feature the US Women’s National Team (USWNT), Brazil, Japan and Norway.
No dates and times are finalized yet, but it is going to be great to see those women back out there on the field to kick the new year off in style! Can the USWNT ramp things up en route to their date with the Summer Olympics?
MLS Regular Season (March?)
The MLS Regular Season is tentatively scheduled for the beginning of March of this year! It could possibly be pushed back, but in a perfect world, the ball will be rolling at the beginning of March!
We all know what this league brings. The excitement, the parity, the marathon of a nine-month season. Who will make the playoffs, who will win the Supporters Shield, who will win MLS Cup 2021? The action begins a lot sooner than it may seem!
CONCACAF Men’s Qualifying for Summer Olympics (March 15-28)
Due to the pandemic, the CONCACAF Men’s Olympic qualifying, as well as the entire Tokyo Olympic games had to be postponed. For the Teams in North America, South America and the Caribbean, they will have a mad 14-day-dash to make the reschedule games!
The Under-23 national teams of Canada, the United States, Costa Rica, the Dominican Republic, El Salvador, Haiti, Honduras and Mexico will fight for the chance to make it to Tokyo!
The first American professional sports league to come back in 2020 was the National Womens Soccer League (NWSL), and the NWSL reportedly could start their season in April of 2021! The hugely successful NWSL Challenge Cup, a tournament style competition that took place in 2020 is back for 2021. This will kick off the season for all 10 teams in the league!
Don’t sleep on the NWSL. It has some of if not the best players in the world, including many USWNT players!
Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup (May?)
For the first time in its existence the Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup, the longest-running American soccer tournament, had to be canceled in 2020. Fear not, the cup-upsets (cupsets!), and cup-dreams will be back this year!
Who will make a run for glory? Will an MLS team win it again? Could it finally be in the hands of the Philadelphia Union? Will a lower level team be able to punch above their weight to win this historic cup?
Leagues Cup (June?)
Remember when USA’s MLS and Mexico Liga MX decided to create a cross-country tournament in the middle of both league’s regular seasons? Yes, the Leagues Cup will be beak in 2021!
It’s another opportunity for MLS to try to get one up on Liga MX, and for Liga MX to most likely squash an MLS team in the final!
CONCACAF Nations League (June)
The newest CONCACAF International competition will finally conclude after being postponed in 2020. The Nations League semifinals and final will take place in early June!
The top seed Mexico takes on fourth-seeded Costa Rica in one of the semifinals, while the three see United States Men’s National Team (USMNT) face second-seeded Honduras. These should be some fun and telling games to get players ready for even more competitions later in the summer!
Copa America (June 11 – July 10)
Who is ready for one of the greatest international tournaments ever to kick off this summer? The Copa America features ten teams from South America, and two invited teams to play a month-long tournament. This tournament was scheduled for 2020, but now we get to enjoy its beauty in 2021!
This year’s iteration will be co-hosted by Argentina and Colombia. The eight other South American teams joining them are Brazil, Bolivia, Chile, Ecuador, Paraguay, Peru, Uruguay and Venezuela. The two guest teams in the tournament are Australia and Qatar!
These twelve teams are broken down into two groups. The top four from each advance to the knockout rounds! This is always an over-the-top fun tournament that you won’t want to miss!
UEFA Euro (June 11 – July 11)
Another huge international tournament that was postponed due to Covid-19 was the UEFA European Championship. This tournament occurs every four years, and this upcoming one is very special.
For the first time, more than two European countries will host this tournament, in fact, 12 different cities across Europe will play host to the Euro’s this summer! 24 teams are split across six groups. They play for a chance to win Europe! Here’s a look at the groups:
- A: Turkey, Italy, Wales, Switzerland
- B: Denmark, Finland, Belgium, Russia
- C: Netherlands, Ukraine, Austria, North Macedonia
- D: England, Croatia, Scotland, Czech Republic
- E: Spain, Sweden, Poland, Slovakia
- F: Hungary, Portugal, France, Germany
The top two from each group, along with the four best finishing third-place teams make it to the knockout rounds. Are you ready for an even more congested soccer summer with some of the world’s best playing for their countries Glory?
CONCACAF Gold Cup (July 10 – Aug. 1)
The CONCACAF Gold Cup makes a return in 2021. This tournament is definitely a lesser one compared to Copa America or the Euro’s, but it still offers the chance to see the USMNT do well!
This tournament consists of 15 CONCACAF teams and one invited team. If you’ve been paying attention to the world of FIFA, I bet you can guess the invited team. Qatar is the guest nation, and they join Canada, Honduras, Grenada, Jamaica, the United States, Mexico, El Salvador, Costa Rica Curaçao, Martinique, Suriname, Panama and three other nations yet TBD!
These teams are separated into four groups, and the top two from each group make it to the knockout rounds. Will we see a USMNT team that is able to win its seventh Gold Cup? Will runaway victory Mexico win it for a ninth time? Or will another nation win this cup?
Summer Olympics (July 22 – Aug. 9)
2020 was really an awful year for postponed sporting events. The biggest postponement of the year was the postponement of the Summer Olympics. Now in 2021, we know there will be the Olympiad in Tokyo Japan! That means both a men’s and women soccer tournament!
The Men’s tournament is made up of 16 nations. These teams are then broken into four groups. The top two teams from each group move on to the knockouts! These groups are not yet determined as the 16 team field awaits the two teams the qualify from CONCACAF (Please do the thing USA) to join the teams.
The Women’s tournament is similar, but a bit different. There are only 12 teams in this tournament, and they are broken down into three groups. The top two teams, plus the top two third-place finishers make the knockouts. These groups are also not determined as they are waiting on the final two teams to qualify from the AFC region and CONMBOL region respectively!
These tournaments are always fun, and full of youthful up-and-coming stars! Be sure to watch to see if one or both of the American teams can win a medal!
Men’s World Cup Qualifying
If all of this wasn’t enough for you in 2021. There is also Men’s World Cup qualifying going on for the 2022 Men’s World Cup. Many regions are already underway in their qualify tournaments, but joining them late in 2021 will be CONCACAF.
This means we will get to see the USMNT in qualifiers again after their horrific failure in 2017 which led to them not making the 2018 tournament! The USMNT kick off a mad dash of qualification games that start in September of 2021 and end in March of 2022.
Don’t miss the action this year!
As we move closer to the start of soccer in America, and see what is coming this summer, it is clear to say 2021 is a year full of soccer. More so than even in years prior.
With so much going on this year, we at Philly Sports Network will do our part to keep you informed! We’ll have articles on all these competitions to keep you up to date. Also, don’t forget to check out the Doop by the River Podcast to hear about all of the action as well! It’s going to be a great year!
Be sure to come back to Philly Sports Network for more Philadelphia Union and other soccer content!
Follow our Union team on Twitter:
Doop on Union fans!
Mandatory Credit: Gregory Fisher/Icon Sportswire
Philadelphia Union Editor of Soccer Content
A passion for the beautiful game drives me.