MLS maps out return to home-field play

MLSAfter what has been generally considered to be a successful MLS is Back tournament, league officials are mapping out a 2020 season return to play at home stadiums–perhaps as soon as next week

Nothing’s been announced and apparently things are very tentative, but the Washington Post is reporting that a resumption to home play is planned for this month. In general, league play would begin Aug. 21-23, but for the two teams who left the MLS is Back tourney because of COVID-19 outbreaks, Nashville SC and FC Dallas, league play could begin as soon as Aug. 12-15, with two games replacing the matches lost in the tournament. Discussions between players and the league cover health protocols and how matches would be handled, per the Post:

MLS has stood by Commissioner Don Garber’s comments in June that the league plans to continue playing after the tournament. On Monday, league spokesman Dan Courtemanche said, “We do not have an update at this time, but we hope to have an update soon.”

Among the issues the league and the players’ association are discussing is testing: In the Florida bubble, results came back within 12 hours, but in home markets, timetables could vary. This would pose problems when needing to retest an individual or test the entire team on short notice after a positive result in the delegation.

Players are also seeking clarity on protocols, should a player test positive, and what levels of interaction they are allowed with family, friends and neighbors.

Also to be addressed for a 2020 MLS season continuation: player travel (commercial flights are pretty much out of the question), and when and if fans will be allowed to home stadiums. This is a matter more for local health officials who oversee allowable crowds in outdoor facilities.

Popping the bubble is risky: We’ve seen the issues faced by MLB and USL Championship disrupting the 2020 season. Moving past the Disney World bubble does let MLS generate some sorely needed media and sponsor revenue, as well as a small amount of gamely revenue when allowed. But with no end in sight to the pandemic, launching play is a risk for all involved.

Photo courtesy MLS.

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