Major League Soccer concedes return in mid-May ‘extremely unlikely’

Major League Soccer conceded Tuesday that a return to play in mid-May is “extremely unlikely,” as is fitting in the entire season.

Like many leagues, the North American soccer circuit announced a 30-day suspension of play on March 12 — two weeks into the regular season — due to the COVID-19 outbreak. A week later, citing Centers for Disease Control and Prevention guidelines, it extended its season hiatus with a target return date of May 10.

At the time, it said it remained focused on playing the entire 2020 campaign.

The league walked that back in a brief statement Tuesday

“Although we hoped to return to play in mid-May, that is extremely unlikely based on the guidance of federal and local public health authorities. Our goal remains to play as many games as possible, and while we currently have enough dates to play the entire season, we recognize at this time that it may become difficult to do so.

“We continue to learn more every day from the medical experts, and we expect to have additional details in the coming weeks regarding when we can return to play.”

Continued evaluations

The league said it continues to “regularly evaluate the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic, including how it will affect our plans for the 2020 season.”

Options include pushing back the end of the season and staging the MLS Cup in December, as the league did prior to the 2019 season. The championship game was held Nov 10 last year.

The 2020 MLS championship game had been scheduled for Nov 7. MLS held its championship in December from 2012 to 2018, then reduced the playoffs last year by changing the earlier rounds to knockout matches from a two-leg format.

Earlier this month the league extended its team training moratorium to April 24. That means MLS training facilities are closed to all players and staff with the exception of players requiring treatment or rehabilitation. Players are expected to remain in their respective market, barring league approval for players who want to move to another market by car.

The training moratorium has been in effect since the league suspended play.