Major League Soccer is coming right back following the MLS is Back Tournament. The top circuit in the United States and Canada announced plans to resume the regular season on Aug. 12, a day after its monthlong, World Cup-style tournament concludes in a “bubble” in Central Florida.
Despite the ongoing coronavirus pandemic and the fact that Major League Baseball is playing games in empty home stadiums, a limited number of fans will be permitted to attend some of the matches where local officials allow, although “the majority of the matches in local markets will be played without fans in attendance,” the league said in a news release.
“MLS and club leadership are working with local health authorities and government officials on a plan for limited capacity at certain games where allowed,” the statement continued.
FC Dallas and Nashville SC, which were both forced to withdraw from the MLS is Back Tournament after more than 20 players and staffers on the two teams tested positive for COVID-19, will meet in Frisco, Texas, on Aug. 12 and Aug. 16.
As was the case during the MLS is Back Tournament, all players and essential club staff, including coaches, will be tested every other day. Teams will travel on chartered flights or buses, and where possible, they will arrive and leave on match day. Still, given the fact that baseball games continue to be postponed as positive tests roll in, there are legitimate concerns about the wisdom of MLS’s approach.
A day before MLS’s announcement, the St. Louis Cardinals were forced to postpone a weekend series against the Chicago Cubs after a player contracted COVID-19. The second-tier United Soccer League Championship division, which restarted last month with fans in attendance in some markets, has also been beset by positive tests. The Philadelphia Union’s second team, which competes in the USL, called off Sunday’s match against Hartford Athletic following a positive test.
MLS has had no positive tests inside its Orlando-area bubble for three weeks. FC Dallas’ and Nashville’s outbreaks apparently occurred in their own markets, before those clubs traveled to the competition in Florida.
“We’ve accepted the fact that we’re going to have challenges,” MLS commissioner Don Garber said Saturday on a conference call with reporters. “We believe we have a good plan.”
If that belief wanes, he added, then plans will change: “If it doesn’t work, then we don’t go forward.”
Garber said that, contrary to reports, fans have not been given the go-ahead to attend the two FCD-Nashville matches in Texas, where the government is permitting sports venues to host spectators up to 50 percent of capacity.
“There are a number number of states in [the United States] that are allowing fans at sports events today,” Garber said. “In those states where we have clubs that have an interest in welcoming fans, and not all do, we will consider it after they submit a plan.”
Any plan would have to be in accordance with CDC and states guidelines, he added.
“No plan has been approved to date,” he said.
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