Let the games begin: When are sports leagues returning despite coronavirus pandemic?

Yahoo Sports

When the NBA halted its season following Utah Jazz center Rudy Gobert’s positive test for coronavirus on March 11, most of the sports world quickly followed suit. Leagues stopped play. Games, races and events everywhere were postponed or canceled. The 2020 Olympics were pushed back a year.

Since then, slowly but surely, sports have been making a comeback. There’s still no proven treatment or vaccine for COVID-19, which has ravaged the world and especially the United States, but many leagues have either returned to action already or are planning to resume, although with numerous safety precautions, including no spectators.

Here is the latest news regarding each sport.

NBA

The NBA’s Board of Governors and the players’ union signed off last week on commissioner Adam Silver’s plan to resume the 2019-20 season on July 31 at the Disney World complex in Orlando, Fla.

Only 22 teams are included in the plan, the 16 teams already in playoff position and then the next closest six teams. After the end of the modified regular season, the NBA postseason will tentatively use the following schedule:

  • Aug. 16-17: Play-in tournament

  • Aug. 18: First round

  • Sept. 1: Conference semifinals

  • Sept. 15: Conference finals

  • Sept. 30: NBA Finals Game 1

  • Oct. 12: NBA Finals Game 7 (If needed).

MLB commissioner Rob Manfred and the players' union haven't been able to agree on several issues, including the length of the shortened season. (AP Photo/John Raoux)
MLB commissioner Rob Manfred and the players' union haven't been able to agree on several issues, including the length of the shortened season. (AP Photo/John Raoux)

MLB

MLB owners and players have engaged in contentious negotiations to restart the 2020 season, likely in late July.

Last Wednesday, the league rejected the union’s 114-game proposal and indicated it would not send a counterproposal. But Monday it reportedly sent the players a new proposal for a 76-game season. This proposal would guarantee players only 50 percent of their already prorated salaries for the regular season. The players would receive up to 75 percent of the prorated salaries if the postseason — to which much of MLB’s television revenue is tied — occurs.

The proposal isn’t much better than an offer the players “roundly rejected” last week. If it’s not approved, owners and commissioner Rob Manfred are prepared to move forward with unilaterally implementing a schedule as short as 50 games. .

NHL

With relatively little acrimony, the league and its players agreed to a four-phase plan to resume the 2019-20 season.

Phase 1 involved declaring the end of the regular season. Phase 2 will be voluntary group workouts starting June 8.

Phase 3 (training camp) and Phase 4 (actual return to play) are to be determined, but the league answered some lingering questions about its 22-team playoff format. A qualifying round will be composed of a best-of-five series, followed by the traditional seven-game format for the remaining four rounds.

NFL

With the season scheduled to start in September, the league isn’t planning on postponements or cancellations for now.

The NFL sent a memo to teams on Monday outlining protocols for reopening. Coaches are now allowed to be in team facilities, as long as it is allowed by the local government. Players will return soon, too.

College football

An NCAA vote on May 20 cleared the return of student-athletes to campus in football, men’s basketball and women’s basketball on June 1 through June 30. This decision ends a moratorium on all athletic activities through May 31.

This doesn’t necessarily mean a rush back to campus for those three sports, as those decisions will be made in concert with state and local governments, and conference and university officials.

But the NCAA Division I Council’s vote marks a significant step — both symbolically and in process — for the possibility of college football and other sports returning in the fall. 

Soccer

Major League Soccer, which paused its season on March 12 after just two rounds of games, will return July 8 with a World Cup-style tournament in Orlando, Florida. Games will count in the standings of the regular season, which the league said would resume in home markets following the event in Florida. Multiple sources told Yahoo Sports that the league is eyeing an abbreviated 18-match schedule for its teams.

The English Premier League will resume with a pair of games on June 17 provided that “all safety requirements are in place.” If that’s the case, Aston Villa will meet Sheffield United while Manchester City will host Arsenal.

The National Women’s Soccer League will play its season as a 25-game tournament for the Challenge Cup beginning June 27. The tournament will be played between all nine teams in Utah.

Meanwhile, Germany’s Bundesliga resumed play on May 16.

Golf

If you don’t count “The Match,” in which Tiger Woods and Peyton Manning defeated Phil Mickelson and Tom Brady on May 24, then golf hasn’t returned yet. But that’s about to change.

The PGA Tour will pick back up on June 11 in Fort Worth, Texas, at the Charles Schwab Challenge, the first event since The Players Championship was canceled in March. The field is set to be the best in the event’s history and includes world No. 1 Rory McIlroy, No. 2 Jon Rahm and No. 3 Brooks Koepka. 

Meanwhile, the fate of the Ryder Cup should be determined later this month.

WNBA

The WNBA is reportedly engaged in talks to hold a 22-game regular season this summer at IMG Academy in Bradenton, Fla, starting next month. The usual 36-game regular season was initially scheduled to start on May 15.

Tennis

The ATP and WTA tours are suspended at least until late July. The French Open’s start was pushed back from May until September. Wimbledon was canceled for the first time in 75 years.

A decision about the U.S. Open is expected within weeks; the tournament's main draw is scheduled to begin in New York on Aug. 31.

NASCAR

After a 10-week hiatus, NASCAR returned May 17 at Darlington. The race, won by Kevin Harvick, drew a huge TV audience of 6.32 million viewers and kicked off a frenetic string of seven races in 12 days.

The NASCAR schedule is now set through Aug. 2 with stops at Pocono, Indianapolis, Kentucky, Texas, Kansas and New Hampshire.

MMA

After failing in his first attempts to return to action, Dana White pulled off UFC 249 on May 10 in Florida, making UFC the first major sports league to stage an event after the mass coronavirus shutdown.

Since then, the UFC has held more events, including UFC 250 on June 6 at the company’s Apex facility in Las Vegas, and it has more events scheduled in the coming weeks.

Boxing

While a fight card of local boxers was held in Nicaragua on April 25, the sport has remained largely shut down since March. But fighters returned to the ring on June 5 for an event headlined by Carlos Molina vs. Michi Munoz in Mexico.

After that, Top Rank is holding a series of fight cards throughout the month. The first event features WBO featherweight champion Shakur Stevenson vs. Felix Caraballo on June 9, followed by Jessie Magdaleno vs. Yenifel Vicent on June 11. Both are in Las Vegas, though no live fans are allowed.

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