It’s been the question on every sports fan’s mind: will there be battles fought, sweat spilled, fierce competition won this year? The answer is yes, and it’s back in a big way in Birmingham. Birmingham Legion FC, the city’s professional soccer club, will open an amended 2020 season Wednesday, July 15 at 7 p.m. They will take on Memphis 901 at BBVA Field in downtown Birmingham.
Birmingham Legion FC will play 16 regular season matches between now and October 3rd to complete the newly formatted USL Championship regular season, with eight contests taking place at home. Legion FC played 38 games last season, making it all the way to the USL Championship quarterfinals before losing to the Pittsburgh Riverhounds SC.
Legion was put into Group G for the shortened season, which includes Charlotte Independence, Memphis, and North Carolina FC. The team will also face competitors in Group H to round out the full schedule, including Atlanta United 2, the Charleston Battery, USL Championship newcomers Miami FC, and the Tampa Bay Rowdies.
Legion FC Head Coach and Technical Director Tommy Soehn said he recognizes the challenge ahead, but is ready to get the season going.
“The group we’ve drawn will be difficult,” Soehn said. “We’ll have to maintain our focus throughout, but the guys are really excited to get back to playing and to be back in front of our fans.”
Legion FC will unveil special jerseys during the match on Wednesday to celebrate a community partnership with the Birmingham Civil Rights Institute. The full kit is black, with all greyscale logos, nameplates, and numbering as a way to recognize the current international movement aimed at combatting social injustice and racial inequality.
Following the match, each of the game-worn, player-signed jerseys will be up for auction, and all proceeds will go directly to the Institute. Follow @bhmlegion to learn how to enter.“We’re honored to partner with an organization as distinguished as the Birmingham Civil Rights Institute,” said Legion FC President and General Manager Jay Heaps. “The Institute has done inspiring work to encourage communication and education on civil rights issues in this community and around the world, and as a part of this city, we are proud to support them with this partnership.”
While the team and the City of Birmingham are ready to get going, things will look a little different in light of COVID-19. BBVA Field will have limited capacity and will follow all federal, state and local health guidelines in addition to club-specific protocols.
All guests and employees will be required to wear masks at all times. Prior, during and after the match, all high-traffic areas like concession stands and bathrooms will be disinfected. Hand sanitizer stations will be available throughout the facility. BBVA Field will remain a “cashless environment” for the 2020 season.
For Legion FC President and General Manager Jay Heaps, safety tops his list of concerns.
“The health and safety of our fans is our top priority as we return to play this season,” Heaps said. “Taking all necessary precautions in order to mitigate as much risk as possible to play at BBVA Field in our local community, in front of our fans, was vital, and we look forward to safely playing again for Birmingham.”
Heaps said that wearing a mask is essential to making sure fans can continue to attend games at the stadium.
“We need them to be responsible and mindful of social distancing and to wear masks, so that we can continue to have fans in attendance and to keep our players and fans safe while giving everyone a chance to enjoy the game,” he said.
While they know fans are eager to cheer the team on, Legion FC asks that chants and cries of joy at the many goals anticipated be kept to a minimum.
General admission tickets are available and very limited. Due to social distancing, Legion FC is requiring tickets to be purchased in sets of 2 or 4 for Section 101 or 109 and sets of 4 in the Good People Deck. Berm seating was added on the west side of the stadium under the scoreboard. Blankets are permitted for sitting on the grass in this section. Tickets range from $10 to $25 and kids under 4 get in free.
All Legion FC season ticket holders will be able to attend every home game. Each will have assigned, socially-distanced seat locations. Fans who can’t make the game in person can catch it live on ESPN2.
For those who catch the game at BBVA Field, regular concessions include popcorn, hotdogs, chips, candy, hot pickles, and drinks. Multiple food trucks that will be on site, serving up some delicious grub to enjoy with the game. Offerings include: Wasabi Juan’s, I Love Bacon, Swamp Monster BBQ, Eugene's Hot Chicken, iCantina, Post Office Pies, and Delta Blues Hot Tamales. A variety of craft beers from Good People Brewing Company will be available as well as selections like Coors, Dos Equis, and Blue Moon.