In light of Major League Baseball's trouble with its season, Major League Soccer's plan to resume play in its local markets is under scrutiny.The league has been buoyed by the success of its MLS is Back tournament in Florida, which concludes Tuesday with the title game between the Portland Timbers and Orlando City. With teams headed home, the plan now is for an abbreviated season.“It started with a tournament in a bubble, but in our minds it had always been that we would get back into the markets at some point soon," MLS Commissioner Don Garber said. "And that transition from the successful tournament to playing in our home markets is no different than the process with our tournament: It is very closely following the guidance of our medical experts and our infectious disease advisors, and in consultation with the local health authorities and government officials in all of our local markets.”The tournament got off to a rocky start when both FC Dallas and Nashville were forced to withdraw because of positive coronavirus tests. But only two other players have tested positive in the bubble at ESPN's Wide World of Sports complex at Walt Disney World.MLS, the National Women's Soccer League, the NBA and the WNBA have been able to successfully play games amid the pandemic, but in controlled environments with players sequestered from the general public. The NHL has resumed its season in “secure zones” in Toronto and Edmonton, and the league says it has not had any positive tests.But MLB, playing in home stadiums without fans, has had some two dozen games postponed because of the coronavirus. Outbreaks have notably impacted the Marlins and Cardinals.The NFL is planning games in the fall, although 67 players have opted out. The players association says 56 players have tested positive since the start of training camps on July 26.The USL Championship, the tier below MLS in American soccer, has been playing in local markets since July 11 but there have been more than a dozen games postponed because of positive tests. LA Galaxy II has had 11 positive tests.The MLS plan comes amid increasing coronavirus cases in the United States, with more than 5 million contracting the virus and 162,000 deaths.Dr. Carlos del Rio, an infectious disease expert who is chairman of the Hubert Department of Global Health at Emory University’s Rollins School of Public Health, has reviewed Major League Soccer's plans for playing out the season and believes it is sound.He pointed to the league's mandate that teams take charter flights or buses to the games, with no overnight hotel stays. That will cut down on the contact the teams have with the public. The league's rigorous testing program also should help prevent outbreaks.“I think the major difference between what MLS does and what baseball is doing is, let’s say Atlanta United was playing in New York. They’re flying in the morning, they’re playing and they’re flying back home. So they’re not staying there overnight, there’s no risk of the players going to hotels, staying at an unknown place, having to get meals in a restaurant or go out to eat," del Rio said. "They’re not having back-to-back games. And that will give them the opportunity to test them again before the next game. So I think there’s some fundamental differences."But players will individually need to be diligent in protecting themselves away from the team, he said.“I think that’s where the issues are. And that’s why I think it’s very going to be very important that the players have the discipline and have the education about those risks and try to avoid that, because the reality is those are the things you cannot control,” he said. "So it’s less about the bubble or the market, it is more about what happens outside of those settings.”Del Rio is on the NCAA's COVID-19 advisory panel. He is not so certain about college football this fall, considering all the variables involved. The most important thing, he said, was that the nation needs to comprehensively address the pandemic.For Chicago Fire coach Raphael Wicky, the resumption of the season is a chance for his team to move on from a disappointing showing at the MLS is Back tournament. But he too emphasized the importance of individual responsibility.“Knock on wood, we never had a positive test in our team and in our club. So, I think we were very disciplined, but it’s very important that we keep doing that," Wicky said. "Especially now, everyone’s back home. It’s summer, everyone has a life, but we tell the players, `Look, you’ve got to be very careful and you’ve got to follow the rules, wearing masks, social distancing.'”Garber said that if circumstances merit it, he won't hesitate to pull the plug on the rest of the season.“We believe we have a good plan, we believe our players and our staff are focused on adhering to our protocols, and if we’re able to do that, we ought to be able to get our games in,” Garber said. “And if we can’t do that in a way that’s safe, and one that’s ensuring the health of our players, we’ll have to address it. If it doesn’t work then we won’t move forward."___More AP soccer https://apnews.com/Soccer and https://twitter.com/AP_SportsAnne M. Peterson, The Associated Press
Buoyed by the MLS is Back tournament and confident of its coronavirus protocols, Major League Soccer will resume its regular season with teams playing in their home cities.The league's 26 teams will each play 18 games, with the first between FC Dallas and Nashville set for Wednesday. Dallas and Nashville will play three games against each other, having been forced to withdraw from the MLS is Back tournament because of COVID-19 cases.A majority of games will be played without fans because of local regulations. Teams will be subject to a rigorous testing protocol and will use charter flights or buses.“We believe we have a good plan, we believe our players and our staff are focused on adhering to our protocols, and if we’re able to do that, we ought to be able to get our games in," MLS Commissioner Don Garber said Saturday during a conference call. "And if we can’t do that in a way that’s safe, and one that’s ensuring the health of our players, we’ll have to address it.”MLS continues to work with the Canadian teams because of travel restrictions. The Canadian teams — Montreal, Toronto and Vancouver — have not been included in the first phase of the schedule.Montreal Impact president Kevin Gilmore said discussions are ongoing with the league and Canadian officials to maximize the amount of games the club plays overall, but also at home in Montreal."We're looking at all different things on parallel tracks, ideally we'd be playing our home games at Saputo Stadium and we have to plan as though we will," Gilmore said."But we also have to plan that if playing against U.S. clubs in Canada is not possible for the immediate future, then we have to plan accordingly and make sure that our planning encompasses how long that immediate future lasts."The return comes as corornavirus cases and deaths mount across the country. Nearly 5 million people have contracted COVID-19 and 161,000 have died.“We understand that getting back to play is going to have some challenges. We’re aware of those challenges, we’re prepared for it, we are understanding that it’s not going to be easy,” Garber said. “We know that we might have issues that are going to disrupt us and might even force us to postpone games. We’re aware of the need to be flexible, we’re aware that we are entering a new normal for our industry.”The monthlong MLS is Back tournament has been played without fans at ESPN’s Wide World of Sports complex at Walt Disney World. The championship match is set for Tuesday between the Portland Timbers and Orlando City.Players and team personnel have been sequestered in two Disney resorts for the duration of the tournament, which started July 8. The group stage matches counted toward the regular season.MLS suspended the season March 12 because of the pandemic after teams had played two games each. Celebrating its 25th season, the league had added two expansion teams this year, Nashville and Inter Miami.MLS is Back appeared that it might be derailed at the start when Dallas and Nashville had to drop out. But apart from those two teams there have been only two confirmed positive tests — one from Sporting Kansas City and one from Columbus.After their game at Toyota Stadium on Wednesday, Dallas and Nashville will play again Aug. 16. A third match between the two teams will be scheduled later.“Having suffered the heartache of the Orlando Tournament, it’s wonderful to be preparing for our first game in five months,” Nashville coach Gary Smith said in a statement. “The players and staff are excited to be competing again and we would all like nothing more than to get into a rhythm of games to promote the team development we have all missed.”FC Dallas announced that Toyota Stadium will be opened for a maximum 5,110 fans, and all must wear masks.The league's teams will play six games in phase one of the season's return, three home and three away. Real Salt Lake and Sporting Kansas City also announced that a limited number of fans will be allowed into games.Eighteen clubs will make the playoffs. The final day of the regular season is Nov. 8. and the MLS Cup championship is Dec. 14.— With files from The Canadian Press.___More AP soccer: https://apnews.com/Soccer and https://twitter.com/AP_SportsAnne M. Peterson, The Associated Press
Buoyed by the MLS is Back tournament and confident of its coronavirus protocols, Major League Soccer will resume its regular season with teams playing in their home cities. The league's 26 teams will each play 18 games, with the first between FC Dallas and Nashville set for Wednesday. Dallas and Nashville will play three games against each other, having been forced to withdraw from the MLS is Back tournament because of COVID-19 cases.
MLS announced Saturday that it will resume its regular season on Aug.12, a day after the MLS is Back Tournament ends, when FC Dallas and Nashville SC meet.