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It’s time to let Chicago Fire and Red Stars players begin voluntary individual workouts

Players from both MLS and NWSL are allowed to go work alone with strict rules in place, but they can’t in Illinois

The training dome at SeatGeek Stadium
Photo by Patrick McCraney

Illinois remains under a stay-at-home order through the end of May. Under the current rules, Chicago Fire players are allowed to go exercise outside—in public. But, they can’t go work out alone—with strict rules in place—at the club’s private training facility in Bridgeview.

They could even meet up with teammates to go golfing, but they can’t practice 30 yards apart from each other on a soccer field.

None of that makes sense. That’s why it’s time for local political leaders to give the green light to both the Chicago Fire and the Chicago Red Stars to begin voluntary individual workouts in Bridgeview.

Several teams in both leagues have begun voluntary individual workouts at their club training facilities. In MLS, well over half of clubs are working under strict rules to give their players a place to train.

Here’s how it works: Players have to stay in a designated parking space before being called over to have their temperature taken. They have to wear a mask from the point they leave their car to the time they reach the field. There’s a hand washing station available, but locker rooms and weight rooms are off limits. And there’s no contact between any players—each one has their own fourth of a soccer field to work. The MLS rules are so strict, that players who live together as roommates aren’t allowed to train together.

In other words, it’s a much safer and smarter setup than forcing players to go rogue and train in public green spaces. It gives players a safe spot to run, shoot, and get touches on the ball, without worrying about coming in contact with a fan—or anyone else—who is carrying COVID-19.

It’s also important to remember the workouts are voluntary, so if a player has a large, safe space at home, they can keep working out there, instead.

Last week The Athletic outlined a proposal by MLS to stage practices and games for all 26 teams in Orlando beginning in June. Steven Goff of the Washington Post reports NWSL leaders are considering a similar idea for all nine teams in Salt Lake City. There are still a lot of questions about how both plans would work, so it’s still too soon to say whether either proposal to restart is a good one.

But, this much is clear. Until we have a COVID-19 vaccine, any attempt to return to something resembling normal will carry some risk. The risk associated with a soccer player kicking a ball on a quadrant of a field at SeatGeek Stadium seems extremely low.

Let them return to training. When compared to the other things we’re allowed to do during the stay-at-home order, it seems silly not to.