Fans could return to some Major League Soccer (MLS) games in the coming weeks after the US competition announced plans to resume its regular season.
Games will begin this Wednesday, some five months after the season was put on hold due to the Covid-19 outbreak.
Following the conclusion of the interim MLS Is Back tournament on Tuesday, each US-based club will play 18 additional regular season games in a phased approach, culminating with ‘Decision Day’ on November 8.
To make up the three matches missed from the tournament after their withdrawals following positive COVID-19 tests, FC Dallas and Nashville SC will play an additional three matches, against each other, with the first two games on August 12 and 16 and a third game to be scheduled in the autumn.
In an expansion of the postseason for 2020, 18 clubs will compete in the MLS Cup Playoffs – up from 14 teams last year. MLS Cup will be played on December 12.
With the US having been heavily impacted by the global pandemic, MLS stressed the return to play in home markets will feature comprehensive health and safety protocols, including regular testing of players, coaches and essential staff for COVID-19.
At this time, the majority of the matches will be played without fans in attendance. MLS and club leadership are working with local health authorities and government officials on a plan for limited capacity at certain games where allowed.
“There are a number of states in our country that are allowing a limited number of fans to sports events today,” said MLS commissioner Don Garber.
“Those clubs that are interested in welcoming fans where their states allow, we’ll consider it after they submit a plan and that plan is following the guidelines of our infectious disease doctor and following the protocols established by the states and by the CDC (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention).
“In the event that it passes (those criteria) then we’ll consider it. No plan has been approved to date. That process is just starting. I don’t anticipate that it is going to be a lot of markets in phase one. That process is going to continue as more and more states either decide to allow fans for sports events or some states that have decided to allow them might change their mind.”
Image: New York Red Bulls