MLS mulling on resuming play in Orlando


ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex - MLS update May 2020 Image: ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex

Major League Soccer (MLS) is reflecting upon the possibility of resuming the season this summer with all teams playing in Orlando, Florida in US.

Major League Soccer is a men’s professional soccer league sanctioned by the United States Soccer Federation which represents the sport’s highest level in the United States and Canada.

Reliable sources stated that details of the plan are still under deliberation, but the league’s 26 teams and limited staff will, in all likelihood, be sheltered in a resort with games played without fans at ESPN’s Wide World of Sports Complex at Disney World. The entire plan has not been formally announced as yet.

Teams could head to Florida as early as June 1 for training camps. The league suspended play on March 12 after teams had played just two games.

“I think the league is still at a stage, from what I understand, where this particular idea is something that they have in mind and are trying to get feedback from teams about as to what it could look like and how it could work,” Nashville coach Gary Smith said.

“Personally, again, we’re in uncharted territory here. I certainly, along with probably most other people, have never seen anything like it before. So therefore, you have to be a little bit more open-minded about what a season could look like,” Smith noted.

Nashville Soccer Club is a Major League Soccer team based in Nashville, Tennessee, in US.

Other proposals have included teams playing a tournament-style competition in four different cities. It may also happen that teams could return to their home stadiums for games following the resumption of the season in Orlando.

A clear picture has still not emerged whether any of the plans had been presented to the players’ union.

On Wednesday, Florida Governor Ron DeSantis said his State was open to the idea of leagues looking to restart, or start, their seasons.

“All professional sports are welcome here for practicing and for playing,” DeSantis said.

“What I would tell commissioners of leagues is, if you have a team in an area where they just won’t let them operate, we’ll find a place for you here in the State of Florida,” the Governor further asserted.

The ESPN facility has 17 fields, so it could lodge multiple teams. MLS held its All-Star game in Orlando last year.

The Major League Soccer All-Star Game is an annual soccer game held by MLS featuring selected players from the league against an international club.

“What I can say if this community is ready to do it, then Orlando is the perfect city to hold an event like that,” Orlando City coach Oscar Pareja said.

Orlando City Soccer Club is an American professional soccer club in Orlando, Florida, that competes as a member of the Eastern Conference in MLS.

“The experience, infrastructure, everything. Orlando has everything to hold it. If the league decides to do that, I think it’ll be a great decision to play it here. It’s just rumors right now, but I don’t see any other city that has the experience and possibility to hold such an event like Orlando,” Pareja added.

MLS inched towards resuming the season last week when teams were given the go-ahead to start voluntary individual workouts at team facilities under strict guidelines. Small group workouts would be the next step in this regard.

However, a number of teams, including the Seattle Sounders and the San Jose Earthquakes, have not been able to participate because of stay-at-home orders in their respective communities.

Seattle Sounders FC is an American professional soccer club based in Seattle, Washington. The Sounders compete as a member of the Western Conference of MLS. The San Jose Earthquakes are an American professional soccer team based in San Jose, California, United States, that competes as a member of the Western Conference of MLS.

Sporting Kansas City (American professional soccer club) coach Peter Vermes said on Wednesday that his team has started the process of procuring tests, both for COVID-19 and for the antibodies associated with it, the next necessary step towards returning to the pitch. Sporting was the first team to come out with a comprehensive protocol for the individual workouts.

“At the end of the day, I think all of us as teams want to get back to playing games as soon as possible, for so many different reasons. And I would say the players, I think, want to do that as well,” Vermes said.

“We all want to make sure we’re doing it in a safe environment, and also we’re doing it in a meaningful way,” Vermes added.

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