MLS takes their first cautious step forward during a Global Pandemic as they open up outdoor training facilities to individual players.
Major League Soccer announced today that as of May 6, players may begin using the outdoor team training fields for individual workouts once health and safety plans have passed through team and local health experts, and have been approved by the league – a process that is already underway, according to the LA Galaxy.
The workouts are all voluntary, per the MLS press release, and will be conducted in compliance with “detailed health and safety protocols that were created in consultation with medical and infectious disease experts.”
The training facilities will remain restricted to essential staff only with sanitization and disinfection plans for all training equipment and spaces (soccer balls, cones, goals, etc.). And each player will be given a health assessment before every arrival at the training facility, with temperature checks as well. MLS will also prioritize staggered staff arrivals for these sessions and a minimum of 10 feet kept between staff and players at all times with personal protective equipment worn to and from the sessions.
The outdoor fields, according to MLS, can be divided into no more than four specific quadrants with no cross-contamination between those different sections. That means that no passing or shooting can be attempted between players or coaches. It’s individual training only.
But the protocols still strictly prohibit a player from accessing club facilities such as locker rooms, team gyms, and team training rooms, and the league-wide moratorium on small group and full team training remains in effect through Friday, May 15. MLS has given no indication that the training moratorium will be lifted after the middle-of-May deadline expires.
While a minor step in the overall return to soccer, MLS is allowing players to escape their houses to use team-controlled outdoor fields.
For the Galaxy, Dignity Health Sports Park sits on a 125-acre site that is filled with fields and training facilities and could see a wide variety of activities for the players. And while gyms and locker rooms will be off-limits, there does seem to be a chance for a little more interaction between players and staff even if that means keeping some distance.
If the league does plan to return to play this year, this will be the first step in proving they can safely have players interact with each other, even if that first step keeps them ten feet away.
Germany’s Bundesliga was attempting something similar with teams back in full training as they prepared for a finish of the league behind closed-doors. But 3 people at Cologne have tested positive for the coronavirus. Making any MLS progress cautiously slow and steady.
MLS suspended play for the 2020 season on March 12, for 30 days. Since that announcement, MLS has retargeted a June start date for the season and has been insisting that there are still plenty of dates to play a full 34-game season.