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Report: MLS proposing all 26 teams to resume playing July 1 in Orlando

MLS is going to Disney World!?

Alejandro Pozuelo waits over a free kick at BMO Field during Toronto FC’s 2020 home opener
(Sean Pollock)

TORONTO, Canada—As professional soccer matches begin to return in various countries around the world, it appears that Major League Soccer is making plans to potentially follow suit.

According to The Washington Post’s Steven Goff, the league has already made multiple proposals to teams and their players to resume the 2020 season, including one that sees all 26 clubs playing competitive matches at Disney sports complex and other locations in the Orlando area without spectators this summer.

“The players, coaches and support staff numbering more than 1,000, would live under quarantine at one of the large resorts near Disney World for an undetermined length of time,” sources told Goff. “Teams would practice and play primarily at ESPN Wide World of Sports, which sits on 2220 acres as part of Disney’s massive footprint in central Florida.”

Of course, a plan of this magnitude doesn’t come with hinges. One of the possible deterrents is forcing players to be away from their families during the COVID-19 pandemic, as according to Goff, players would not be allowed to bring their significant others, children, or parents along.

Another hurdle that both sides have to overcome is ensuring that they mitigate the health and safety risks of all staff involved—from stadium operations to security. The plan likely does not move forward if the league cannot get access to tests in large quantities.

Another idea being floated around, however, is setting up two or more hub spots to stage workouts and matches this summer. It is unclear which locations right now are being proposed.

With no timetable set for a return, Goff also mentions that MLS is expected to “accelerate plans over the next two weeks and set the framework for resuming [the] season,” meaning we’re likely to hear a lot more about this in the coming days.

As it stands, MLS has postponed all matches through June 8, but as Goff notes, the realistic timetable for a return-to-play scenario stretches likely later into the summer.

UPDATED (Wed. May 13, 2020 @ 4:52 PM)—From The Athletic’s Sam Stejskal, the proposed return date would be July 1, with teams competing in what would likely be a four-to-five week round-robin tournament event.

Earlier this week, several MLS clubs—including Toronto FC—made small steps to returning, beginning voluntary individual workouts (barring their jurisdiction permitted it). MLS is apparently hoping to soon alllow players to begin training in small groups.

“We are more optimistic about what a return-to-play plan would look like,” comissioner Don Garber told Nashville SC’s YouTube page last week. “A month ago, we were very pessimistic.”

But what does this all mean for soccer at BMO Field? Will we see only one Toronto FC match there in 2020?

“At some point, the league would plan to send teams home for games without spectators,” according to Goff, “though varying degrees of state restrictions might leave some unable to host matches in the foreseeable future.”

Unfortunately, with international border restrictions, BMO Field likely falls under the latter, meaning Toronto FC will likely play their matches elsewhere for the foreseeable future.

Nevertheless, if that means finding out what this 2020 Toronto FC team could have been will be, that’s at least a bit of consolation for us here north of the border.

Stay safe, #TFCLive. We’re one day closer to the return.