First Sign That American Soccer Is Coming Back As COVID-19 Pandemic Slows
The skies brightened when the MLS announced that players could voluntarily return to their team fields to start individual training. Is this the beginning of a re-start of soccer in America?
On May 1, Major League Soccer (MLS) announced that as of Wednesday, May 6, players could start training again. The MLS suspended the league March 12 as it began to assess the impact of COVID-19. Back then, it seemed unreal that the MLS would suspend its season — now it seems a dream that players are allowed to come back to the pristine green fields that have been empty for so many weeks.
And there will be an enormous amount of space between the players training on the MLS fields. “Clubs will have the use of the outdoor fields at their training facility, divided into a maximum of four quadrants per field. A maximum of one player per quadrant may participate per training session with no equipment sharing or playing (passing, shooting) between players.”
Of course, the MLS statement used the word voluntary but I am not sure how what definition they are using. What player doesn’t want to come and train, even if ‘social distance’ is required? And, what coach would want a player who doesn’t want to volunteer to come to training?
While a few players may hit the field is game ready condition, most MLS coaches know that conditioning could be an issue and are prepared to guide players back to the proper fitness levels.
“I don’t expect the players to come back ready to play a full 90 minutes,” said FC Dallas’ head coach Luchi Gonzalez in an earlier interview. “Their soccer skills, that is like riding a bike — I am just concerned with fitness levels.”
Of course handwashing before and after training is required and Players must wear masks from the parking lot to the fields.
The next announcement should be when the teams can train in small groups, which is what is being done in Germany’s Bundesliga. The MLS moratorium on small group and full team training is still in effect through, and including, Friday, May 15 and all teams must file an Emergency Action Plan for all COVID-19 related issues with the league.
Here is an excerpt of the MLS statement:
Major League Soccer today announced that as of Wednesday, May 6, players may begin to use outdoor team training fields for individual workouts, in compliance with detailed health and safety protocols that were created in consultation with medical and infectious disease experts. All individual workouts are voluntary and may not be in conflict with local public health official or government policies.
By allowing players, on a voluntary basis, to utilize team-operated fields for individual workouts, MLS clubs will be able to provide a controlled environment that ensures adherence to safety protocols and social distancing measures for players and staff.
The individual player workout protocol prohibits access to club facilities including but not limited to locker rooms, team gyms, and team training rooms. Team gyms and training rooms may still only be accessed by players receiving post-operative and rehabilitation treatment, as directed by the club’s Chief Medical Officer.
Prior to initiating any individual player workouts, every team must submit to MLS a club-specific plan that outlines how the team will implement health and safety protocols, including:
- Restricting training facility access to essential staff only, with specific staff listed in the plan.
- Sanitization and disinfection plans for all training equipment and spaces, including disinfection of any equipment used by players (balls, cones, goals) between every session.
- Completion of a Standard Screening Assessment survey by each player prior to every arrival at the training site, and temperature checks upon arrival at the facility.
- Staggered player and staff arrivals and departures, with designated parking spaces to maintain maximum distance between vehicles.
- Staff use of the appropriate personal protective equipment throughout training, while also maintaining a minimum distance of 10 feet from players at all times.