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2021’s rearranged football schedule is nuts, and may impact European clubs’ preseason

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Among other things, coronavirus has thrown a tightly managed football calendar into disarray

England v Croatia: Semi Final - 2018 FIFA World Cup Russia Photo by Shaun Botterill/Getty Images

The coronavirus pandemic has dramatically altered the football calendar, forcing a number of this year’s major tournaments to push the matches to 2021. Rearranging a football calendar that gives players and supporters little space to breathe is no enviable task, and while a stacked slate of football sounds fun, there is one group of people that is not going to be happy: club managers.

What likely would have happened ahead of 2020’s preseason will likely be pushed to 2021 also. With the European Championship, Copa América, and the Olympics joining other tournaments previously scheduled for 2021 like the Concacaf Gold Cup and the U-20 World Cup, clubs will probably have a limited number of first team players available ahead of the 2021-22 season.

One rescheduling that took place in January that should lighten the load slightly: the Africa Cup of Nations moved from a June-July 2021 tournament to a one that begins January 9 and ends February 6.

Here’s a look at what that schedule might look like and which players might be impacted, with the obvious caveat that a lot of it is up in the air.


FIFA U-20 World Cup

Dates: May - June

Possibly involved players: players born between or on January 1, 2001 to December 31, 2005 (no current first team players are eligible)

Other than hosts Indonesia, no teams have qualified for the tournament, and FIFA has yet to finalize dates for the tournament. UEFA was scheduled to complete qualifying this month, but each remaining team has only three matches left that were scheduled to be completed in one FIFA window, so it may not be too difficult to reschedule.

Other confederations are scheduled to complete qualifying later this year and early next, but Spurs currently do not have players from outside Europe in the academy.

Considering the early dates of the tournament, any Spurs youth players that play should be ready to fill up roster spots in preseason should they be asked to.


UEFA European Championship

Dates: June 11 - July 11

Possibly involved players: Toby Alderweireld, Steven Bergwijn, Ben Davies, Dele, Eric Dier, Harry Kane, Hugo Lloris, Tanguy Ndombele, Moussa Sissoko, Jan Vertonghen (out of contract in June 2020), Harry Winks

A large group of Spurs players will be busy once the 2020-21 season is complete, and most play for teams capable of making deep runs. A large percentage of this group should be expected to miss most of preseason in 2021.


Copa América

Dates: June 11 - July 11

Possibly involved players: Juan Foyth, Paulo Gazzaniga, Erik Lamela, Giovani Lo Celso, Lucas Moura, Davinson Sánchez

This group of players is almost the same boat as their teammates headed to the Euros — if they get called up, they may make deep runs, and will probably miss a large chunk of preseason.


Concacaf Gold Cup

Dates: July 2 - July 25

Possibly involved players: Cameron Carter-Vickers

It is not a certainty that Carter-Vickers will be either a Tottenham player or on the United States’ squad by the time the next Gold Cup comes around. The inferior version of the biennial tournament, though, is going to cancel out a lot of preseason involvement for players at European clubs.


Summer Olympics

Dates: no later than summer 2021

Possibly involved players: Serge Aurier, Juan Foyth, Paulo Gazzaniga, Erik Lamela, Hugo Lloris, Giovani Lo Celso, Lucas Moura, Tanguy Ndombele, Moussa Sissoko, Son Heung-min

Spurs’ youth players will most likely not be involved at the Olympics, particularly considering Great Britain men’s team does not regularly participate in the tournament. However, a host of first team players could go to Tokyo as overage players from the countries that did qualify.

Depending on when exactly the Olympics are rescheduled, it seems very unlikely that players that played in other international tournaments that year would go to Tokyo (though three Spanish players did the Euro-Olympics double in 2012). That said, it is worth mentioning that FIFA does not obligate clubs to release players for the Olympics.