Major League Soccer took a small step toward resuming its season on Wednesday when it announced that beginning on May 6, players will be able to use outdoor team training fields for individual workout sessions. These workouts will be voluntary and in compliance with local public health official and government protocols.
By only allowing voluntary individual workouts and restricting access locker rooms, team gyms, and team training rooms, the league is hoping to adhere to social distancing and maintain the well-being of players and staff. The league also mandated that each team must submit a plan detailing how they will implement health and safety protocols at their facilities before any players can begin using them for individual training.
In addition to banning access to other team facilities like locker rooms and gyms, the league wants to stagger player and staff arrival and departures, ask players to use protective personal equipment when they go from the parking lot to the soccer field and divide the field into quadrants with no sharing of equipment to completely adhere to social distancing guidelines. Yahoo Sports’ Doug McIntyre noted that the league did not include any information about testing in its statement, and cited a source as saying that MLS officials do not want to take tests away from front-line medical workers and patients for whom tests are more important.
MLS, along with the NWSL, NBA, WNBA, NHL and MLB, has been sidelined since mid-March due to the global COVID-19 pandemic. According to Friday’s statement, “the league-wide moratorium on small group and full team training remains in place through, and including, Friday, May 15.” However, players are expected to remain in-market to prepare for the possibility of the season resuming at some point.
According to Sports Business Journal, MLS and the MLS Players’ Association are still discussing ways to reduce player salaries during this uncertain time, and how to proceed given that there is no current ratified CBA to follow. It remains to be seen if and how the league can resume the season without fans, and whether it’s worth doing so when the health risk remains so large.