Thursday's soccer news starts with the distinction between sports in Europe and in North America. Whether or not the Bundesliga resumes play under its new schedule targeting May 15, it may not mean much of anything on this side of the Atlantic. Major League Soccer taking the lead as the first professional sport to return is unlikely considering how far into their seasons the National Basketball Association and the National Hockey Association were before suspending their seasons. Then there's the pressure on Major League Baseball to start their season so they can finish it. Those bigger money leagues have the financial imperative to restart as soon as possible, along with the broader public and civic support.
For Major League Soccer, that keeps them in the new normal of waiting for clarity. The NBA and NHL are reportedly taking steps to reopen, but that requires at least some lessening of the stay at home orders in multiple states. The likelihood of at least some need for neutral sites for some percentage of games looms across leagues. So does the basic safety issue for players and staff. There's the travel issue. All of these teams will need time to get themselves back into playing shape after the layoff. Then there's the economic situation. It's clear that money is one of the primary motivators for getting the Bundesliga going again, but their economy is different from any of the other major European leagues, much less North American pro sports.
Within this discussion, MLS is in an interesting situation. They're not potentially losing as much as the bigger leagues because they don't have it to lose. At the same time, their losses could have a bigger impact on the league due to having less to begin with. That somewhat overlooks the financial situations of their investor/operators in a single-entity system, but it's hard to confuse MLS economics with basketball, hockey, or baseball.
Where one league goes in North America, others will quickly follow. We saw that play out already with leagues suspending their seasons. The NBA started due to a player contracting the virus. The rest of the leagues did the same within days. MLS took the lead with the gradual introduction of players returning to individual training at team facilities. Reports have the NBA doing the same after a Friday conference call with players. The NHL and MLB would follow. Amid all of these plans is the need for virus testing on an ongoing basis.
The Bundesliga has the tests available due to how a smaller country like Germany has managed the pandemic. That's not the same situation in North America, compounded by multiple sports wanting to resume across a massive geographic area. Figuring out a reasonable answer for testing that doesn't drain a limited supply for the general public may be the most difficult of the steps for North American pro sports to return. It's the reality check of getting the leagues restarted soon.
Yahoo Sports' Doug McIntyre on the Bundesliga return from a USMNT perspective. The NY Times' Tariq Panja with the Bundesliga setting a May 16 date to resume the season. ESPN's Tom Marshall relays Concacaf president Victor Montagliani's comments about a futre MLS and Liga MX merger with his preference for the importance of the Champions League.
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