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Major League Soccer: Sanitation Has to Come Before Soccer

There is a certain irony that I am writing this on Friday the 13th.

For the day which those of a superstitious nature believe, can bring bad luck to all really has gone largely unnoticed as the world generally is alarmed by the spread and severity of the infection known as the coronavirus.

Declaring a pandemic is charged with major political and economic ramifications and one of the areas naturally affected is the role of sport.

Similar to the NBA, among the football leagues affected are Italy’s Serie A, Spain’s La Liga, the Dutch Eredivisie, Portugal’s Primeira Liga and now, less than two weeks after a new campaign kicked off, USA’s Major League Soccer – all suspended over coronavirus concerns.

The 2020 Major League Soccer season has been suspended for 30 days after a statement from MLS commissioner Don Garber.

“Our clubs were united today in the decision to temporarily suspend our season – based on the advice and guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), Public Health Agency of Canada (PHAC), and other public health authorities, and in the best interest of our fans, players, officials and employees,” said in the statement.

“We’d like to thank our fans for their continued support during this challenging time,” they added.

There were warning signs earlier this week when several Major League Soccer 2020 news emerged that two MLS matches scheduled for March 21 were postponed in Seattle and San Jose as measures are taken to contain COVID-19.

The organisation was already taking precautions to mitigate the risk of illness. At Audi Field, players and front-office staff are using separate entrances, and no one has been allowed to circulate between the two areas which are two floors apart.

MLS had also mandated that its teams take charter flights for road trips for the foreseeable future because of the outbreak. MLS teams usually fly commercial, putting players, coaches, and front office members in close contact with members of the public.

Now, every match until at least the clash on April 8 between New England Revolution and the heavily favoured Seattle Sounders has been postponed.

Major League Soccer calls off the season for safety of players, staff, and fans
UANL Tigres fans are wearing hazmat suits and medical masks during the match against New York City FC at Red Bull Arena

No more is the frustration felt than at Inter Miami CF. The club has been waiting about six years to play its MLS home opener but will now have to wait at least another 30 days because of the pandemic.

They were scheduled to play its home opener against the LA Galaxy on Saturday.

Football — or soccer as it is still called in the States — is a big business and a world game. The league has 23 teams based in the United States and three in Canada,

However, amidst the frustration and potential major loss of income, it is widely agreed that the safety of players, staff, and fans is the primary concern,

Players in the American top flight hail from various parts of the world – including Spain where the coronavirus has hit hard with 2,277 testing positive and 55 dying as a result.

Some are from France, others from Argentina, Venezuela, Belgium, Japan to name just a few.

But for those who love the game, all is not lost as MLS has some flexibility at the end of the season.

Last year for example, in an effort to streamline the season, the league ended the regular season in early October – about three weeks earlier than in recent years. It also arranged the championship game, the MLS Cup, a few weeks earlier than usual.

League sources say that the idea of playing behind closed doors was never seriously considered as many people close to the situation said, because teams would still have to travel and because of the complicated financial impact that might affect ticketing, vendors, and other infrastructure elements.

The last time MLS faced such a disruption was after the 2001 terrorist attacks. The final few weeks of the regular season were cancelled and play resumed during the play-offs.

Perhaps this suspension will not be long-term. It is surely agreed though that despite frustrations, MLS is doing the right thing. At this moment in time, sanitation has to come before soccer!

 

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