MLS is moving one step closer to a return to action.
The league announced on Thursday that teams are permitted to use their outdoor training fields for small group practice sessions. All sessions will be voluntary and the groups cannot be comprised of more than six players.
Practices cannot be in conflict with local government or public health regulations. Every club must also submit a plan that has been reviewed and approved by its respective medical staff and local infectious disease expert prior to initiating the small group training sessions.
The teams are required to adhere to the following protocols:
- Clubs must utilize outdoor fields as indoor training facilities remain closed to all players with the exception of those requiring medical treatment or rehabilitation, under the direction of the team medical staff, that cannot be performed from the safety of their residences.
- Clubs may divide each full field into a maximum of two equal halves and may assign a group of players to each full or half field.
- Clubs may clearly define up to six zones per half field, spaced at least 10 feet apart. Only one player may be in a zone at any given time in order to maintain physical distancing standards throughout the session. For clarity, a maximum of six players may be assigned to a single group with each player accommodated in a separate zone.
- During training sessions, players may switch zones within their own group only if another player is not currently in that zone and players must maintain a physical distance of at least 10 feet from all other players and coaches while moving between zones
- Within a single group, players may pass the ball and shoot on goal; however, all training exercises must allow players to maintain a physical distance of at least 10 feet from one another.
- Players may only train with the other players within their own group and may not interact with other groups. While the groups may not be rearranged during a single training session, clubs may rearrange the combination of players in each group from session to session.
- Coaches and technical staff must wear a face mask at all times and may direct players from the perimeter of the field, never entering the field, while maintaining at least 10-feet of distance from other staff and players.
- Only approved equipment may be used during training session including balls; small and regular goals; rubber dots; small discs and cones; rebounders; rings; GPS Pods and personal equipment that is not shared between players. Mannequins, poles, bands, weights and ball machines may not be used.
- Goalkeepers may not spit on their gloves and must clean, disinfect and sanitize their gloves after each training.
Furthermore, clubs must continue to maintain the health and safety guidelines that have been in place for weeks. Those regulations include restricting training ground access to essential staff only, having hand washing and disinfectant stations, and more.
Thursday’s development marks the first time since March 12 that MLS will allow group training of any sort. Clubs began holding individual workouts earlier this month for the first time since the COVID-19 pandemic forced the suspension of the 2020 season more than two months ago.
The league’s moratorium on full team training remains in place through Monday, June 1.