Major League Soccer suspended all games on March 12 due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The stoppage was later extended to at least June 8, which brought up concerns about the 2020 season. Now, however, the league is inching closer to a return as some players have returned to the practice field.
MLS posted a video on its official Twitter account on Wednesday, showing players arriving at an outdoor practice field. These athletes were wearing cloth masks along with gear for Orlando City and Sporting Kansas City. Prior to being allowed on the field, these players had to first get their temperatures taken. They also used hand sanitizer as another precaution.
Back out on the pitch. ⚽ pic.twitter.com/JfQSZ7pSNK— Major League Soccer (@MLS) May 6, 2020
The workouts taking place on Wednesday were strictly voluntary. No players were being forced to leave their homes amid the coronavirus pandemic. Additionally, these were solely individual workouts. MLS won't be incorporating team workouts until at least May 15.
Atlanta United FC also provided proof that the players were keeping at least six feet away from each other with a video posted to the team's Twitter account. The footage, which was likely captured by a drone, showed the lone player working through an individual drill. Another member of the team was also visible, but they were on a completely different section of the field.
The teams that have returned to practice are Atlanta United FC, Houston Dynamo, Sporting Kansas City, Inter Miami CF and Orlando City SC. Prior to reopening their facilities, the teams had to examine and approve the new list of guidelines after sharing them with the medical staff and a local infectious disease expert. The clubs also had to properly communicate these new procedures to their players.
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.
These new changes went into effect on May 6, and players immediately responded. Many welcomed the opportunity to head onto the practice field once again even for individual drills. The league-wide moratorium on team practices remains in effect until May 15 while games aren't expected to resume until June.