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MLS return plan could include tournament, December finish

Isaiah J. Downing-USA TODAY Sports

No definite timetable for a return has been set, but Major League Soccer is beginning to make its move toward a return to play in 2020. 

The United States and Canada’s top-flight soccer league allowed its players to return to team facilities as long as they train outside and by themselves beginning May 6. 

It was the first step toward salvaging a season that was canceled after its second week of the regular season on March 12 — just one of the major sporting leagues in North America that were shut down over two days when the coronavirus pandemic began to spread around the continent. 

Initially, the hope was MLS would be sidelined for 30 days, but multiple pushbacks now have a potential return slated for June 8. But given the unpredictable nature of the virus, it’s to be taken with a massive grain of salt. 

If individual training is effectively carried out, MLS will then allow players to train in small groups and then as a full team.

The final two legs of the three-phase plans have not been given dates of execution as of yet, but it will be reviewed by the league and must pass state and federal guidelines, per ESPN.

Only after all training hurdles are cleared, MLS can properly visit the idea of resuming regular-season play — which makes the June 8 return a stretch. 

If or when it gets the green light, the league could revamp its gameplay to get back to action sooner rather than later.

As the ESPN report noted, “the most likely” way for MLS to properly return and crown a champion is through a tournament held at either a single neutral site or multiple central hubs. 

The tournament would last approximately 45 days with Orlando, Dallas, Los Angeles, and Kansas City being tabbed as potential host cities. 

After the tournament, the league could resume traditional play in their local markets with the MLS Cup possibly being decided in December or January. 

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