The MLS Grand COVID-19 Experiment: Fans In the Stands

Back to the outside world.

Major League Soccer is leaving the bubble and embarking on the resumption of the 2020 season with teams going back to their home markets to practice and eventually play games. As of now, the MLS plans to restart the in-market phase of the season with an August 12th game between Nashville and Dallas in Frisco, Texas. Not only will the teams play one another but there is a plan to have people in the stands watching the game. The Dallas and Nashville squads did not play any Disney World bubble games in Orlando, Florida because some members of the two squads tested positive for COVID-19. The MLS will then begin a great experiment. Can people attend games and not get sick? The Dallas franchise plans to have up to 5,110 people in the stands for the opener against Nashville. Salt Lake City and Kansas City also plan to allow customers to attend games. New Jersey Governor Phil Murphy may not allow fans in the stands for New York’s home games in Harrison.

The MLS schedule is a work in progress. The three Canadian franchises, Montreal, Toronto and Vancouver are not on the initial schedule because it is uncertain whether the Canadian government will allow travel between the United States and Canada. Major League Baseball’s Toronto Blue Jays franchise was denied the ability to play in Toronto because of that reason. Blue Jays home games are scheduled to be played in Buffalo, New York with no guests in the stands. The MLS bubble plan worked as well as could be expected in the middle of a pandemic. After Dallas and Nashville dropped out because players came down with COVID-19, only two cases of the illness were reported. The MLS planners came up with a bubble protocol with lots of testing. Now the bubble wrap is gone. MLS games could be a laboratory, experimenting with fans in the stands in a COVID-19 world.

(AP Photo/John Raoux)