There is a very real possibility that MLS‘s current suspension could last months, as the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends cancelling events with 50 or more people over the next eight weeks amidst the coronavirus pandemic.
In response to the growing coronavirus crisis, MLS announced last Thursday that it was suspending play for 30 days. The initial timeline would have meant that the league resumed action next month, but the broader circumstances surrounding the response to coronavirus–or COVID-19–have changed rapidly over the last few days, leading to the possibility of a longer stoppage of play.
On Sunday night, the CDC issued a revised set of guidelines that includes a recommendation to cancel events of 50 or more people over the next eight weeks. Though technically not a mandate, the guidelines–if followed by the league–would mean not playing matches before fans until at least mid-May. For now, there are still plenty of questions about when MLS could resume play. More from the Atlanta Journal-Constitution:
MLS said last week that it was postponing games for the next 30 days but that they would be rescheduled. Atlanta United President Darren Eales last week said the teams were providing to the league its available venue dates.
The league has yet to say if it is following the CDC’s advice for this lengthier postponement….
Complicating the rescheduling is that the league has a few teams, including Atlanta United, competing in the Champions League, which has also been postponed. The U.S. Open Cup has also been suspended. If it restarts, and it has been played every year since 1913-14, would include 23 of the league’s 26 teams. The third round, which is when some MLS teams enter the bracket, was scheduled to start April 21-23. The final was scheduled to be played Sept. 22-24. Atlanta United is the defending champion.
The leagues’s remaining three teams would compete in the Canadian Championship if it is played. The winners of the U.S. Open Cup and Canadian Championships earn berths in the next year’s Champions League. Should each of those tournaments elect to play it takes away some possible dates for league games to be made up.
MLS is not the only professional soccer league in the United States that will grapple with this challenge, as Division II USL Championship previously announced a suspension of at least 30 days and Division III USL League One has delayed the launch of its season that it was originally set to begin in late March.
With hourly news about the spread of the coronavirus impacting the sports-business and facilities industries, it’s more important than ever to stay up with the latest news in the venues industry. That’s why we’re launching a new Venues Digest newsletter focusing on coronavirus information across the ballparks, arenas, stadiums, theater and performing-arts worlds. For now it will appear daily, and for now it will be free of charge. Sign up here.
RELATED STORIES: Concacaf Champions League Play Suspended Over Coronavirus; USL League One Season Delayed at Least Two Weeks; USL Championship Play Suspended for at Least 30 Days; MLS Suspending Season for 30 Days Amdist Coronavirus Crisis