Major League Soccer announced a protocol which will allow players to get some training in at team facilities, but it doesn’t push actual games much closer to being played.
Starting on May 6, MLS will allow players on an individual basis the option to train at outdoor practice fields at team facilities. The protocol is subject to the respective “stay at home” orders in each individual state. That means the Seattle Sounders, for example, will not be able to avail themselves of this change in procedure at least until Washington Gov. Jay Inslee makes some adjustments to the shelter-in-place order.
As it is, the policy has significant limits on usage of team facilities and probably doesn’t offer much more than what many players are able to do at home. According to a release from the league, “The individual player workout protocol prohibits access to club facilities including but not limited to locker rooms, team gyms, and team training rooms.” Players are still allowed to use facilities for purposes of post-operative and injury rehabilitation.
The league released a nine-point outline detailing what each team must do to allow players to train on-site, including:
- Restricting training facility access to essential staff only, with specific staff listed in the plan.
- Sanitization and disinfection plans for all training equipment and spaces, including disinfection of any equipment used by players (balls, cones, goals) between every session.
- Completion of a Standard Screening Assessment survey by each player prior to every arrival at the training site, and temperature checks upon arrival at the facility.
- Staggered player and staff arrivals and departures, with designated parking spaces to maintain maximum distance between vehicles.
- Player use of personal protective equipment from the parking lot to the field, and again on return to the parking lot.
- Staff use of the appropriate personal protective equipment throughout training, while also maintaining a minimum distance of 10 feet from players at all times.
- Hand washing and disinfectant stations for required use before and after individual workouts.
- Clubs will have the use of the outdoor fields at their training facility, divided into a maximum of four quadrants per field. A maximum of one player per quadrant may participate per training session with no equipment sharing or playing (passing, shooting) between players.
- An Emergency Action Plan for all COVID-19 related issues.
According to an ESPN report, issues with getting players sufficient training and exercise was becoming a major problem, with some players getting exercise at local parks. The change in policy means, “MLS clubs will be able to provide a controlled environment that ensures adherence to safety protocols and social distancing measures for players and staff,” per a MLS release.
MLS recently pushed back a restart to the season until “at least” June 8, and the training moratorium was extended until May 15.