Tuesday’s soccer news starts with comments from Concacaf and MLS about getting the games in once its safe to resume professional soccer. AP’s Rob Harris with Concacaf president Victor Montagliani talking about the potential for no international soccer until next year. The idea for not using the international windows in September, October, and November isn’t exactly a surprise, but it would mean 16 months between camps for most international teams. The last international window was in November 2019. If international soccer doesn’t resume this year and FIFA doesn’t the international breaks, the next window would be March 2020.
Montagliani’s reasoning is what anybody paying attention would expect. The longer it takes to resume the suspended club seasons, the longer it may take to finish them before starting the following season. As it stands, the Bundesliga is the only league attempting an earlier than expected restart. Should that prove safe, the expectation is that other leagues would follow with respect to government advice.
FIFA rightly suspended the March window with the pandemic taking hold across the world. June followed, with the idea that the club game would need those weeks to complete their seasons. With UEFA and CONMEBOL suspending their national team tournaments, it didn’t make sense to insist on a June international window. Past that, it’s an open question.
World Cup qualifying needs to happen at something close to a regular schedule. The idea that any confederation would want to shorten qualifying or otherwise limit opportunities works against the concept of the World Cup. This is the last cycle of the 32-team World Cup, with Concacaf already reworking qualifying to just the Hexagonal round. Montagliani confirmed that Concacaf wants to complete the Nations League as well, something that would likely take a full international break. Next summer’s Gold Cup also hasn’t finished qualifying.
Allowing the club game to take precedence over the summer is the right move, justifiable by all stakeholders in an extraordinary time for the game. However, there are limits to giving the clubs priority over national teams. Should the club games return sooner than later, that’s likely to become an issue with the next international window set for August 31 through September 8. National teams will end up facing a similar compacted schedule with the same pressure somehow to get the games in one way or the other. Should things stay the way they are, it’s a club and country issue when some version of normal eventually returns, not one over the other.
Also in the soccer news, ESPN’s Taylor Twellman interviewed MLS commissioner Don Garber who spoke of several possibilities to complete the 2020 MLS season. That’s becoming more of an issue as other North American sports leagues consider their options for completing their current seasons and starting next season. MLS looks to have room, but there’s also the issue of the overall market.
MLS is always in competition with the other North American major league sports. Right now, it’s those other sports also trying to come up with a way forward. The National Basketball Association and the National Hockey League would like to finish their seasons. Major League Baseball would like to start theirs. All are looking for ways to figure out a path to a champion in a scenario when there might not be enough time left.
On Tuesday, MLS released the following statement: “Major League Soccer continues to regularly evaluate the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic, including how it will affect our plans for the 2020 season. 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. 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.”
BBC Sport Scotland’s Scott Mullen explains the issues with the Scottish soccer leagues attempting to move forward. The Guardian’s Ewan Murray also looks at the situation in Scottish club soccer. The Independent’s Miguel Delaney tries to get at the bigger picture with the Premier League finance issue.
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