By Annie Ross
Major League Soccer is proposing a summer tournament in Florida involving all 26 teams, with all teams at ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex in Orlando to begin training on June 1, with the tournament — involving matches without fans — set to begin three to four weeks later.
The proposal would need to be approved by the MLS Players Association, which is currently in negotiations with MLS over salary cuts. The league’s latest proposal asks for a 20% cut across the board, plus other unspecified monetary concessions.
Sources told ESPN that one proposed format for the tournament would see the league’s teams divided into groups, with each team playing around five games during the group stage. This would be followed by a knockout stage, with “consolation games” staged to make sure each team played the same number of matches.
The league wants the matches to be competitive, but given the fluidity of the situation, it’s unclear if the games would count in the regular-season standings or if a place in the CONCACAF Champions League would suffice.
MLS shut down on March 12. Recently, some teams began holding voluntary, individual workouts for players, subject to their player safety plan being approved by the league.
But some teams have been unable to hold such workouts if they conflict with local stay-at-home orders. LAFC, LA Galaxy and the San Jose Earthquakes are among the teams that have not received clearance to begin individual workouts. Such difficulties are, in part, what has driven the league to take the step of proposing the Orlando tournament.
Testing for COVID-19 would present a significant challenge. Not only would players, coaches and support staff have to be tested, but presumably so would hotel staff. Family members wouldn’t be allowed to travel with the teams.
The biggest challenge of all would be what contingency plans would be in place, should someone connected to MLS test positive. Sources told ESPN that those plans have yet to be communicated to all stakeholders.