MLS’s current plan of restarting the 2020 season on May 10 is looking unlikely, at this point.
The league announced last night it has extended the training moratorium to April 24. Previously, MLS had been extending the training hiatus on a week-by-week basis, but with nearly 40 states now under a shelter-in-place order to battle the coronavirus crisis, the league has decided to extend that by three weeks.
“MLS training facilities remain closed to all players and staff with the exception of players requiring medical treatment or rehabilitation, under the direction of the team medical staff, that cannot be performed from the safety of their residence,” the league’s news release said.
Illinois’ stay-at-home order runs through the end of April, but other cities and states are on different timelines, at the moment. For example, Washington’s shelter-in-place order runs through May 4, and the City of Toronto has canceled city led and permitted events through June 30. So, MLS decision makers will have to juggle a bunch of different timelines in deciding when to re-start activities.
Once things do get rolling, players will need at least a short preseason to regain match fitness again. The Chicago Fire sent exercise equipment to players’ homes, which helps, but that can’t replicate actual training and matches.
“Not to go too deep, but to stay soccer fit when you’re not playing soccer is impossible,” Chicago Fire forward CJ Sapong told Hot Time in Old Town this week.
Some players, like Sapong, are currently in Chicago, away from loved ones. For others, like Kenneth Kronholm, the timing of the shutdown worked out a little better.
“For me it’s a little bit easier than the rest of my teammates, I guess, because my girlfriend is here from Germany,” Kronholm told Hot Time. “She got to Chicago two or three days before the lockdown, so that was lucky for us.”
That’s why the league is looking at giving some players permission to leave their teams’ home cities.
“While MLS players are expected to remain in each club’s respective market, MLS will continue to review individual requests by players to relocate to another market by car, taking into account the totality of a player’s situation,” the MLS statement read.
NWSL commissioner Lisa Baird announced that league won’t start until the end of June, at the earliest. For MLS, a similar timetable is probably best case scenario at this point.