Major League Soccer allows players to return to teams’ outdoor training grounds for individual training starting Wednesday.
MLS suspended the season due to the coronavirus pandemic on March 12, closing all team facilities but asking players to stay in the market with their teams. The league-wide moratorium on group and team training remains in effect until May 15.
MLS says individual workouts must follow certain health and safety protocols as well as local public health and government policies. The trainings are voluntary.
Sporting Kansas City coach Peter Vermes has argued for the new policy out of concern for player safety. Players who train in public spaces run the risk of being recognized and possibly having contact with others.
“What we’ve suggested from the start is that by providing private access to the pitch, which we have at our disposal because we all have our own facilities, you could just do individual training. This is not where a coach trains the player or coaches who form a team, ”said Vermes. “It’s just about providing private pitch space that still keeps players socially distanced and the ability to do so in a safe manner.”
MLS teams must submit a specific plan for training protocols before players are allowed to begin training. They will include restriction of facilities to essential personnel, disinfection and disinfection of all equipment after each session, screening measures, including temperature checks, and staggered arrivals and departures of players and staff, as well as ‘a designated car park which ensures good distance.
Players are still not allowed access to indoor facilities, such as the dressing rooms.
Players must wear personal protective equipment when entering and leaving the pitches, while staff must use such equipment – masks and gloves – at all times. Staff must also maintain a distance of 10 feet from players at all times.
Training fields can be divided into four quadrants, allowing multiple players to train, but only under guidelines that restrict contact and ensure social distancing.
“These are individual workouts with access to the private field only,” said Vermes. “If you think of it that way, you think of it based on the priority given to player safety. And again, it’s a much safer environment than the alternatives they have. “
The next phase would be small group workouts, but there is no timeline for this due to the fluid situation surrounding the coronavirus pandemic and politics in different communities.
But this move is a first step towards a comeback for MLS. NASCAR will bring the racing live to Darlington Raceway on May 17 without the presence of fans. The UFC will host the first of three fanless shows in Jacksonville, Fla., Starting May 9.
Individual MLS teams’ plans for solo training must be approved by medical staff and a local infectious disease expert, and must be submitted to MLS and communicated to players.
Teams must also have contingency plans in place for any coronavirus-related issues that may arise, including players who become ill.