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Restarting the MLS and NWSL Seasons

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Here’s what it could like when the Lions and Pride play when their respective seasons start.

Image courtesy of Orlando Pride.

Major League Soccer and the NWSL have both started voluntary individual training for players with healthy guidelines being followed. Both Orlando City and the Orlando Pride are finally getting back on the field in this new way.

With players starting to get back to on the field training, Steven Goff of the Washington Post reported that when MLS resumes, all 26 teams could be coming to Disney. This is a similar situation to what the NBA is considering. Teams would stay on Disney property, and games and training would take place at the Wide World of Sports.

Orlando is no stranger to playing at Disney. The Lions played at the Wide World of Sports before moving to MLS; however, none of the current players were part of that Orlando City team.

Playing at Disney would be the easiest and most efficient way to start back up. Disney has the infrastructure already in place, and, while individuals would not be able to keep social distancing guidelines in place, regular testing could help keep it safe for players to spend time together on the pitch.

As there would be no fans, teams could play on one of the many fields at the Wide World of Sports, and there could be multiple games happening at the same time.

One of the main parts of starting back up is being able to accommodate all of the teams. There needs to be hotel space to house the more than 1,000 personnel the 26 MLS teams would bring. These hotels should ideally be located near the fields and need to follow proper guidelines set by the government.

Field space for games and training is the next most crucial aspect. There should be enough fields to have multiple games occurring at the same time and facilities for teams to train.

Disney checks all those boxes, but Kansas City is another possible destination, as The Athletic has reported. As Disney has more room, perhaps it could be used for MLS while Kansas City works on a plan for the NWSL.

While a single location would be ideal, another option is to play just “divisional” games. While there are no divisions in NWSL, there are two conferences in MLS. The divisions would be split up geographically and not necessarily follow the separate conferences. Orlando could play in a South Division with Miami, Atlanta, Nashville, Dallas, and Houston. There could be West Coast, Northeast, and Midwest divisions as well.

In this system there are a few possibilities. The teams in the northeast are so close to each other that they could travel to each other’s stadiums like a typical year, albeit with no fans present. For divisions that are more spread out, like the South Division, all teams could travel to one stadium for each week, play back-to-back games, and then go home. The next week would be the same situation in a different city.

The NWSL could do East, West, and South divisions and follow the same plan. Orlando would be in a South Division with Houston and North Carolina.

All players, coaches, and support staff would need to be regularly tested for the coronavirus, as well. This should begin before the league training starts.

UFC returned to action this past weekend, and some people — Jacaré Souza and his two corner men — tested positive. They had to leave the hotel and self-isolate.

“The whole world is weird right now. Everything’s weird. This event’s weird,” UFC President Dana White said. “It’s different. We live in a different world than we did two months ago. The bottom line is the system worked. What you don’t want to do is two days after the fight say, ‘Awe, Jacaré tested positive.’ So it worked. The system worked that we put in place.”

UFC 249 occurred without fans, and it was eerily quiet. It is strange having no crowd noise and hearing what the athletes are saying (or hearing the punches for UFC).

With games being played with no fans, perhaps the most exciting thing to look forward to is how the athletes will act without any fans. Will they still pretend like there are fans there like this UFC fighter did? Will Orlando City players do their customary celebration in front of an imaginary Wall after a win? Or will the players just play the game and leave?

What do you think? What is the best way that the league should return to play? Be sure to comment below.