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MLS extends training moratorium, likely further delaying league’s restart

League is still publicly holding out hope to play a full season, starting at May 10.

2019 MLS Cup - Toronto FC v Seattle Sounders Photo by Andy Mead/ISI Photos/Getty Images

UPDATE: A day before the previous training moratorium was due to expire, MLS extended the ban through May 15. MLS had previously pushed back the earliest date of restarting games until June 8. This training moratorium likely pushes that date back farther.

Any hopes of MLS sticking to a May 10 restart of the season were likely dashed on Thursday when the league announced that they were extending the training moratorium through April 24.

As with the previous suspensions on team training activities, training operations remain extremely limited.

“MLS training facilities remain closed to all players and staff with the exception of players requiring medical treatment or rehabilitation, under the direction of the team medical staff, that cannot be performed from the safety of their residence,” according to a release from MLS.

This extension however differs in one key respect. MLS had previously been extending the moratorium on a week-by-week basis, so as to retain some level of flexibility in calling players back to training, in the event the coronavirus pandemic showed signs of abating such that is was safe to train. But 40 states are now under some manner of “shelter in place order,” and on Thursday Washington Gov. Jay Inslee extended his order through at least May 4. Additionally, many states expect to see a substantial increase in coronavirus cases over the next few weeks.

The May 10 date assumed teams would be able to return having had a second “preseason,” which under the most minimum of circumstances would have required several weeks of training to regain lost fitness, even if the players have been working out on their own.

“Provided they’re doing what they’re suppose to be doing, we could probably get it [ready] in three or four weeks,” said Coach Brian Schmetzer on a media call earlier this week. “We could make do, we’ll have to make do. There’s going to have to be some ramp-up period for players’ safety.”

If by some miracle the situation warranted calling players back in on April 25, that would only allow for two weeks of training.

Schmetzer indicated that under the best of circumstances, he would like five weeks of team training before playing games. Since that amount of time is unlikely, the Sounders’ current plan is to accelerate the teams’ home fitness program about five weeks out from the planned resumption of play. At that point, Schmetzer said the Sounders would do things like providing stationary bikes and other fitness equipment. As of now, Sounders trainer Sean Muldoon has been guiding workouts over video and the team recently started doing them in a group video setting.

That signal seems far away at this point, making it likely that a late June/early July resumption of games is a more realistic best-case scenario. On Thursday, the NWSL announced a delay to the start of their season until the end of June. It seems only a matter of time before MLS makes a similar announcement.

This story first appeared on April 2 and was updated on April 23.

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