Update: MLS’ ban on practices at team facilities has been extended through April 3. The league said it will “review individual requests by players to relocate to another market by car, taking into account the totality of a player’s situation.”
The USL and NWSL practice moratoriums through April 5 remain in place.
Following the Centers for Disease Control’s eight-week restriction on public gatherings of 50 or more people amid the coronavirus pandemic, Major League Soccer announced Thursday that it has extended its suspension of games through that period of time. The league then announced Friday that it has ordered all of its teams off the field through March 27.
The NWSL also ordered its teams off the field through April 5, and acknowledged for the first time that its season won’t start as scheduled on April 18.
MLS said in its Thursday statement that it has “a target return date of May 10,” and “remains focused on playing the entire 2020 season and is evaluating all options.”
Expect the desire to play all games to remain MLS’s position for a while. The league’s lack of a big-money TV deal means its smaller teams, including the Union, rely on ticket sales and other game-day revenue for their budgets.
Players are expected to remain in their teams’ markets and follow social distancing plans. The Friday statement said teams’ practice facilities “may only be accessed for physical therapy purposes at the direction of club medical staff."
MLS might push the season into December, which is when the playoffs ended from 2012-18, and “is also identifying other available dates.” Last year, the league shortened its playoffs to one-game rounds and finished on Nov. 10. This year’s championship game was originally scheduled for Nov. 7.
Yahoo! Sports reported Wednesday that if the playoffs are pushed later in the year, the league could take the final to a neutral site to avoid excessively cold weather. This would be a one-time circumstance, as MLS prefers to have the final at the higher seed. But there is plenty of precedent, as the final was at a neutral site from MLS’s inception in 1996 through 2011.
“Throughout this process, MLS will continue to prioritize the safety of our fans, players, employees and partners and to coordinate with federal and local public health authorities as well as other sporting organizations,” the league said.
Thursday brought news of MLS’ second confirmed coronavirus case: a member of New York City FC’s sporting department. The Seattle Sounders announced the league’s first case this past Sunday, a member of the team’s support staff.
Those are fairly broad umbrellas that can encompass a wide range of employees. Both teams said they’ve taken all necessary isolation measures.
MLS’s initial suspension affected five Union games. The extension affects five more.
Last Thursday, MLS and the USL suspended their seasons through April 11 and the NWSL canceled all of its preseason games. This past Sunday, MLS and the NWSL ordered all their players off fields for the rest of the week: MLS through Friday and the NWSL through this coming Sunday. A few hours after the leagues’ statements, the CDC issued its restriction on gatherings.
The NWSL’s statement didn’t say anything about when games might start, only saying the season “will be delayed.” Opening day was to feature the Washington Spirit hosting OL Reign on CBS’ braodcast network in the first game of a three-year rights deal.
“We are considering all possible implications for the preseason and regular season schedules while prioritizing the health and safety of our players, staff and fans,” a league statement said.
The USL on Wednesday extended the suspension of its two professional leagues — the second-tier Championship and third-tier League One — through May 10. That affects the the Union’s reserve team, which plays in the Championship. Three of the team’s games fell under the previous suspension, and six fall under the new one.
On Friday, the USL added to that with a practice moratorium through April 5. It also said its its semipro League Two will delay the start of its season through the CDC window. League Two has teams in Philadelphia, West Chester, Reading, Allentown and Ocean City.
Concacaf still has yet to announce when its suspended men’s Olympic qualifying tournament could be played. The event was to be held in Guadalajara, Mexico starting Friday. A spokesperson said no further decisions have made.
England’s governing body announced Thursday that there will be no games there until at at least April 30.
Continental governing body UEFA postponed its quadrennial championship tournament for men’s national teams from this summer to next year. UEFA is waiting to make a formal move on its suspended Champions League and Europa League club tournaments, hoping to finish them during the summer.
March 14: vs. San Jose Earthquakes
March 22: vs. D.C. United
March 28: at Portland Timbers
April 5: at Inter Miami
April 11: vs. Montreal Impact
April 15: vs. Los Angeles Galaxy
April 19: vs. New York City FC
April 25: at Columbus Crew
May 2: vs. FC Cincinnati
May 9: vs. Atlanta United
March 14: at North Carolina FC
March 28: at Charleston Battery
April 3: vs. Atlanta United 2
April 12: vs. Indy Eleven
April 20: vs. Sporting Kansas City 2
April 25: at Hartford Athletic
April 29: vs. Louisville City
May 3: at Birmingham Legion
May 9: at Pittsburgh Riverhounds