Right now, Major League Soccer’s plan is to have all teams head back to their local markets after the Orlando “MLS is Back” tournament ends to play a truncated regular season, followed by a postseason. Commissioner Don Garber said he’s “very optimistic” that will happen.
“I expect we will be back in our stadiums, we just don’t know the exact date,” Garber told reporters in a Zoom conference call. “Obviously, this is all unfolding in real time, and literally every day more and more markets are opening. What I find interesting is, these are the markets that you’d expect to open up later.”
While a return to home matches seems likely, it’s unclear whether fans will be able to attend. Garber also seemed open to the idea that some teams might allow fans, while others would not—it just depends on the state of the COVID-19 pandemic.
“Whether or not we’ll have any markets with fans is also uncertain,” Garber said. “But, we’re also hearing about different guidelines that are being established state-by-state where there’s even a possibility that some fans might be able to attend games.”
The Chicago Fire sent out an email to season ticket holders yesterday giving them three options for any 2020 home matches that are canceled or played without fans: 1.) Leave the money in the account, and receive a 10 percent bonus toward 2021 season tickets, plus an exclusive experience, 2.) Get a refund of all but $20, which will act as a deposit toward 2021 tickets, or 3.) Get a full refund.
So, there’s still a glimmer of hope fans might be able to attend in some capacity in 2020, but clearly the Fire are preparing for the event that doesn’t happen.
As for Orlando, the league has said no fans will be allowed to attend the “MLS is Back” tournament, but Fire midfielder Brandt Bronico said he and his teammates will still feel their passion.
“We know we have their support,” Bronico said in a video provided by the Fire. “We know how much the club means to them. We know how much us performing means to them, and we can feel them, whether it’s in Chicago or in Orlando. So, we want to go down there, we want to give them something good to watch, and we want to represent them well.”
The Fire will find out their opponents when MLS draws the groups today at 2:30 p.m. CT. You can watch the draw live on mlssoccer.com.