MLS is still hoping to play a full season this year. The league just might do so without fans in the stands.
Major League Soccer commissioner Don Garber did an interview with ESPNFC on Monday night, and said that the 2020 campaign may have to be played behind closed doors when it returns this year. MLS, which got two matchdays into the season, is currently on pause with no uncertain date for resumption because of the COVID-19 pandemic.
“Most of the scenarios we’re looking at have us going into a number of different locations, a concept of a tournament,” Garber told ESPNFC about the league’s return. “Then right after that being able to, later in the summer, play regular season games in our stadiums, likely without fans.
“We’re calling them MLS Studio games. We’re going to be as creative as we can about what those games might look like, so the plans is to play as many games as the 34-game season as possible.”
If MLS does wind up playing matches behind closed doors, it would mark the first time in league history that any regular season game is played without supporters in the stadium. Playing in empty venues may be somewhat of a common occurrence in other parts of the world, but it has never happened before in Major League Soccer’s previous 24 seasons.
MLS may also have to shorten or alter the structure of the 2020 campaign, a growing possibility given the overall uncertainty surrounding things right now. Different areas in the United States and Canada have distinct timelines for their stay-at-home orders, for instance, which has left no clear answer for when MLS will be able to resume.
“Although we hoped to return to play in mid-May, that is extremely unlikely based on the guidance of federal and local public health authorities,” MLS said in a written statement on Tuesday morning. “Our goal remains to play as many games as possible, and while we currently have enough dates to play the entire season, we recognize at this time that it may become difficult to do so.
“We continue to learn more every day from the medical experts, and we expect to have additional details in the coming weeks regarding when we can return to play. As we have throughout this process, we will update our fans with every decision, and we thank them for their support and understanding during this extremely challenging time.”