Major League Soccer commissioner Don Garber said that he is “cautiously optimistic” about what a return to play will look like for the league as the world continues to deal with the coronavirus pandemic.
MLS has been shut down since March 12, but began allowing players to resume individual outdoor workouts at team training facilities on May 6. Several teams began workouts on Wednesday with more to follow in the coming days.
“We’re more optimistic about what a return to play plan could look like,” Garber told Nashville SC television reporter Jamie Watson on the team’s YouTube channel. “I think a month ago, we were very pessimistic, but I think our country has done a pretty good job of flattening the curve, which is what the objective was.
“We need to be mindful of and focused on continuing to follow local guidelines because flattening the curve really requires us all to be very focused and committed to all the guidelines that local health authorities set out. I would say we’re cautiously optimistic.”
The resumption of practices, albeit in a very controlled environment has increased some hope that MLS will return to the field for games, though there is still a long way to go.
“It’s so early, but so far, no challenges and every player in every club that’s been able to get back to individual trainings, we’re very pleased,” he said. “There was a lot of coverage of that we were one of the first leagues to be able to do that.
“That’s not anything that matters much in the big swing of things, but you’ve just got to remember we only played two games in our season. We’ve got our whole year ahead of us to try to get games in, try to get our players back into shape, try to figure out what our plan will be for broader return to training, small groups and then full team training.
“And then ultimately what will the rest of 2020 look like. It’s too premature to talk about that but obviously a lot of planning going into what those scenarios could possibly be throughout the league.”
In an interview with ESPN television analyst Taylor Twellman, Garber alluded to the possibility of playing games behind closed doors, calling them “studio games.”
Garber added that producing such games would be a “unique opportunity” for the league.
“Whether they’re in a neutral location or in home markets [we need to] try to be creative, try to bring some of the innovation that has been so much a part of the production of major league sports in our country,” he said.