Four of the sports leagues that plan on resuming in the coming weeks and months — MLS, NBA, NWSL, and WNBA — all plan on pursuing bubble leagues in various corners of the United States. This approach has some potential flaws, but as Dr. Anthony Fauci explained when talking about the NBA’s plan, a bubble league could be the model for leagues going forward during the COVID-19 pandemic.
As for leagues that aren’t slated to being their campaigns any time soon, things like a bubble league have not been suggested. But in the eyes of Fauci, the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases and a member of the White House coronavirus task force, the concept of going forward with a football season without a bubble might not be feasible.
“Unless players are essentially in a bubble — insulated from the community and they are tested nearly every day — it would be very hard to see how football is able to be played this fall,” Fauci said, per ESPN. “If there is a second wave, which is certainly a possibility and which would be complicated by the predictable flu season, football may not happen this year.”
Of course, a bubble for football is more complex than a bubble for basketball or soccer, if only because of the sheer number of individuals a team would bring. Rosters with nearly 100 players, plus gigantic coaching staffs, plus gigantic support staffs, plus all the requisite individuals needed to make football games work, means that thousands of people would be placed into a bubble environment. That doesn’t even consider the added complexity of doing this sort of thing with college football, where athletes would presumably be unable to go to class.
All of this is to say that putting together a football season in some kind of bubble would be really, really hard, and that’s before we even consider things like “how on earth can you put together enough practice fields and actual fields for teams to, you know, play football?” The good news, relatively speaking, is that both the NFL and the NCAA have time to put plans together. The bad news, though, is that even the best plan that they can come up with may be nearly impossible to pull off.