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OPINION: Is the reported plan for MLS’ return feasible?

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Putting teams in a bubble is one thing, but attempting to do it in 26 markets in two countries is another ballgame.

Major League Soccer

A few days ago The Athletic reported what Major League Soccer’s plan to resume and play the remainder of the 2020 season was.

Here’s the cliff notes version of the plan:

  • Two Stages of play with a total of 18 games between them
  • Nashville SC and FC Dallas will make up their missing three games with a series between each other
  • Stage one would begin 11 days after the MLS is Back Final (8/22) consisting of six games
  • The three Canadian teams (Montreal Impact, Toronto FC, and Vancouver Whitecaps) would stay in Canada and play amongst themselves
  • Stage two would run 9/16 - 11/8 with the remaining 12 games so each team has a total of 23 matches
  • The MLS Cup Playoffs would have 9 teams per conference make it in and use a single elimination format finishing on 12/12

Honestly for the most part I actually don’t see many issues with this. At this time Major League Baseball has begun their season in a 60 game format using 30 markets in the US. And as of this writing there has been no massive COVID-19 breakout from any team in MLB. A few other leagues are going right now as well, such as the USL Championship and USL League One. Those two leagues have had a total of 17 people from 13 clubs test positive in their last round of testing, which compared to the breakouts that FCD and Nashville had is fairly small. The American Association has also been playing it’s season almost all of July and with using four markets (one including Chicago) the league has (as far as I can find) had only one positive test from a player on the Milwaukee club.

This actually bodes very well for a resumption of the 2020 Major League Soccer season, I will absolutely admit that. But there is one not so tiny problem with that; the league’s three Canadian clubs. Per the report by The Athletic:

“The hope is that Canadian teams would be cleared to travel to the United States by the second phase of the plan.”

This is the glaring issue I don’t see happening. Why? Three words, Toronto Blue Jays.

The Major League Baseball club was originally were initially cleared to play out of Rogers Centre in Toronto by the Province of Ontario on July 16th. Two days later that plan was axed by the Canadian Immigration Minister Marco Mendicino who said:

“The back-and-forth travel to the United States, where cases are on the rise in many states, led to the conclusion that Rogers Centre was not suitable for 2020 MLB season play.”

Then add in that finding a home for the Blue Jays in the US was not an easy task. The Pittsburgh Pirates invited them to play at PNC Park but the state shut that down. Then reportedly the Baltimore Orioles invited them to use Camden Yards but then the state of Maryland also wouldn’t sign off. The Blue Jays would end up in Buffalo, NY playing out of the home of their AAA team the Buffalo Bisons at Sahlen Field.

This is probably going to be the same issue that Major League Soccer faces, because if the Government of Canada won’t let an MLB team play there then why would they let an MLS team play there?

Again overall it’s not a bad plan as long as the league continues testing and eliminates or limits the number of fans for the rest of 2020. But the issue to solve is where will Montreal, Toronto, and Vancouver play, because I highly doubt it’ll be in Canada.