NEW YORK -AP- Four Major League Soccer teams took the first small step toward returning to play Wednesday by allowing players to use team training fields for individual workouts.
Nashville, Real Salt Lake, LAFC, Houston and Portland are among the league’s 26 teams that plan to start Thursday, with more lined up next week.
n Orlando, the entire roster showed up.
“Of course it’s the first step but we have a long way,” said Orlando City midfielder Mauricio Pereyra. “This is the beginning. We are training alone, and then we will have small groups and then we hope soon we can train with the full group.”
Other North American sports are poised to follow MLS. The NBA is opening facilities for small groups Friday in places where local restrictions are eased. NASCAR is bringing back live racing at Darlington Raceway on May 17 without fans in attendance. UFC will host the first of three shows without fans in Jacksonville, Florida, starting Saturday. The National Women’s Soccer League has also started to allow individual workouts.
MLS suspended the season because of the coronavirus pandemic on March 12, closing all team facilities but asking players to remain in market with their teams. A league-wide moratorium on group and team training remains in effect through May 15 and it’s unclear when the season might resume.
When MLS announced Friday that individual workouts would be allowed, it required teams to get league approval before starting. Many haven’t completed the process yet. Numerous other teams are in areas still under stay-at-home orders to limit the spread of COVID-19, or are awaiting approval from local health authorities before moving forward with their plans.
Sporting Kansas City advocated for giving players individual access to private team facilities for safety reasons. They could get recognized and approached in public parks and other fields are not well-groomed and could cause injury.
“This is individual workouts with private field access only. If you think of it that way, you’re thinking of it based on putting the player safety first,” Sporting coach Peter Vermes said. “And again, this is a much safer environment than the alternatives they have.”