Rejoice City fans! The threat of an owner imposed lockout is over. Major League Soccer is back according to an announcement made on Twitter by the Major League Soccer Player’s Association shortly before noon today. The MLSPA and its players have ratified their collective bargaining agreement (CBA) and agreed on terms to return to play. After roughly three months of quarantine, players will finally return to the pitch for what is being described as a five week tournament. New York City FC only recently returned to the Etihad City Football Academy to begin individual training workouts. These individual workouts will continue while the Mid-Hudson Valley is in phase 1 of the COVID-19 reopening. Players will then arrive in Florida some time toward the end of June where they will begin two weeks of team training.
News outlets have been reporting for weeks that all MLS teams will be housed and play at Walt Disney World, playing matches at ESPN’s Wide World of Sports. According to the WWoS website, they house 17 soccer fields and multiple turf fields that could be used for training. Players would be housed at Disney hotels and isolated from family and fans to prevent the threat of COVID-19. As outlined in a recent article in The Athletic, teams would compete in 3 group-stage games followed by a knockout round. Players would spend roughly 6 weeks down in Orlando. Sending professional leagues down to Disney is not a new idea. The NBA has been floating the same plan for several months.
There are still many questions surrounding a return to play. First and foremost, what would happen if a player or multiple players on different teams test positive for COVID-19? Will MLS limit the number of players who can participate in this tournament to reduce the threat of an outbreak? What does the league plan to do at the conclusion of the tournament? In the next few days we should hear more information from the league and from NYCFC. Nevertheless, today is an exciting and hopeful day for MLS fans and NYCFC supporters.