Major League Soccer officials had hoped to resume their suspended season in mid-May, though the league is now extending the hiatus even further.
Clubs now remain in limbo for the foreseeable future as the league did not offer a new target date to relaunch operations but are relying on the advice and guidance of public health experts. The prolonged suspension will likely lead to a reduced season as officials work to brainstorm contingency plans for hitting the field again.
“Major League Soccer continues to regularly evaluate the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic, including how it will affect our plans for the 2020 season,” reads an official statement. “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. As we have throughout this process, we will update our fans with every decision, and we thank them for their support and understanding during this extremely challenging time.”
Prior to announcing the extended hiatus, MLS Commissioner Don Garber shared his outlook on how the season could play out when the time is right. He recently told ESPN’s Taylor Twellman that logging as many games as possible remains a goal, although a full season may not be possible. Like other major sports leagues, the MLS is considering neutral locations to safely conduct games and limit travel.
“From tournament formats and neutral locations, ultimately playing an abridged regular season, but doing everything to get as many games,” Garber said in the interview.
Another likely possibility, depending on the length of the hiatus, is pushing the schedule back later in the year. That scenario is not without its difficulties seeing as the season typically wraps with the MLS Cup in early November, although Garber is insistent that the league completes playoffs.
“We might be playing further into the winter,” Garber said. “That’s even hard to imagine because we had a zero Celsius MLS Cup in Toronto in mid-December in 2017, but we’re going to have to push this season as far as we can so that we can crown a champion in 2020.”