Thursday's soccer news starts with the Bundesliga close to playing games that count. In a week that began with questions over the viability of staging games, even with the strict restrictions Germany has in place, the Bundesliga seems set to resume. That not only makes them the first of Europe's leagues to get the season started. It also creates a clear runway for other leagues to do the same.
Resuming training, even if it meant respecting isolation restrictions, was step one. That's now a hangup for other leagues, with the amount of time needed to get players and teams in game shape, adding to the wait to resume seasons. Reports have the Premier League clubs wanting another week of training following a meeting with managers. Local restrictions have some Major League Soccer clubs allowing limited training while others wait. Even then, it's voluntary and individual. The Vancouver Whitecaps reopened the outdoor portion of their facility on Tuesday.
“This is a positive step forward,” Whitecaps coach Marc Dos Santos said. "In addition to the on-field voluntary individual workouts, we are continuing our micro cycles including full team video workout sessions, individual strengthening, aerobic runs, and bike rides, as well as tactical video review sessions."
Anything that causes a delay that isn't virus related is problematic at this point. Whether or not UEFA extends its end of the month deadline for leagues to submit a plan, there is the feeling that the clock is counting down. That may be more relevant for Europe than North America, but at some point leagues have to make a decision one way or the other. MLS commissioner Don Garber has already talked about having the rest of the calendar year, but time is already the commodity no league can squander.
Going first in Germany is both proof of concept and challenge for the other leagues. Should it prove successful, it becomes the model. That's a for better or worse scenario in some leagues, where the relative luxury of time immediately decreases. It's also assuming the Bundesliga can keep its schedule safe through the end of the season. Initial success doesn't mean prolonged success. A league in a scenario where it resumes only to suspend all over again is the soccer-specific version of the broader societal problem.
That's part of what other leagues are weighing as they continue to wait. Without a mandate and well short of a perfect scenario, they don't have a lot of choice. The pressure on the Premier League to follow the Bundesliga example downplays the situation with the infection rate in England as well as how that league operates. There's no 50+1 rule in the Premier League, no single-entity, and not enough safeguards against the self-interest of individual clubs. That's what the Premier League wanted in better times, but right now it's a problem. How long it remains a problem depends on how long that league waits to announce its path forward.
Project Restart needs to move to the implementation phase with concrete dates if it has any chance of success. It can't be a continual process of trying to get consensus only for the next media cycle to show the divisions within the league. That takes leadership of a type that's rare in English club soccer.
With the Bundesliga on schedule for Saturday, the story shifts to the next soccer league. Serie A and La Liga are also talking about restart dates. MLS's Orlando option is now public. All could use one of the major North American sports leagues resuming their seasons as an additional proof of concept. Most may end up continuing to wait.
SI.com's Avi Creditor asks about player safety in the push to resume seasons in Europe. The Guardian's Oliver Kay asks why some clubs seem in it for themselves as the Premier League tries to move forward.
American Soccer Now's Brian Sciaretta with the USMNT fullback situation. ESPN's Tom Marshall on a positive test for a Liga MX player. The Guardian's Graham Ruthven looks at the MLS and Liga MX merger rumors.
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