MLS Commissioner Don Garber remains optimistic the league will complete something of a full 2020 season, with MLS Cup, wrapping up by the end of the year.
Garber spoke about the MLS restart on ESPN’s special edition of “SportsCenter” Monday. With the league set to kick off the MLS is Back Tournament on July 8 in Orlando, with all 26 teams participating after several months off due to the coronavirus pandemic, Garber believes the league can continue to play after the tournament is scheduled to wrap up in mid-August.
“So that is the plan: a regular season that we go through playoffs and have an MLS Cup that would take place before the end of the year,” he said to ESPN’s Mike Greenberg. “Right now where we’re working in each local market — I’m sure you know all this — states are opening up, there’s more public facilities that are beginning to open, the idea of playing in a handful of markets without fans is already something that exists today. My hope, and really my expectation and I’m optimistic that in the fall, we’ll be able to return into our home markets, complete as much of the regular season, as we can and obviously through crowning a champion.”
Garber repeated his previous response when asked about contingency plans for if or when players contract coronavirus in Orlando, saying the league expects it will happen and players will be quarantined on-site, while contact tracing will take place to better monitor further infections.
But with soccer one of the few team sports back in action around the world, with the Bundesliga in Germany and La Liga in Spain among the leagues that have already resumed play, Garber promised to offer innovations in the MLS is Back tournament to make up for the shortcomings of having it take place without fans and indeed, not even inside a proper stadium.
“The [Bundesliga has] done a really great job with testing and really focused on how to operate those games in a way that is protecting their players and all of their staff,” Garber said. “And also very, very importantly, they’ve done some great things with technology. And we’re going to do that with our games as well. There’ll be more cameras in these games at the tournament than there would be on all of our other network partners. There’ll be more audio. There’ll be unique virtual insertion technology we’re thinking about, and talking with our supporters about how do we include them in the process and can we do zoom live interaction in our end zones. We have a unique open palette. Unfortunately, not in a stadium and basically on an open field, but in many ways that does give us the opportunity to use technology in ways that we’ve been contemplating and the Bundesliga has done a good job with that.”
The LA Galaxy will play LAFC, the Houston Dynamo and Portland Timbers in group play in the MLS is Back Tournament, with the schedule expected to be released in the coming days.
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