Major League Soccer players will return to team training facilities for individual outdoor workouts starting Wednesday in areas where governments have eased coronavirus pandemic precautions to allow such practices.
The voluntary sessions are a small first step toward a resumption of play for the 26-team North American league, which shut down March 12 after two weeks of regular-season matches.
MLS has banned full team training through May 15, with no more than four players at a time on a field during the solo workouts and no passing between players allowed.
“Even if it’s individual and we’re not training with each other, I think we’re all itching just to get back on the field and be training in some capacity with the ball,” Houston Dynamo goalkeeper Michael Nelson said in a posting on the team website.
“I think everyone is really excited about that. Hopefully it’s the first step to a bigger opening as well.”
Seattle Sounders midfielder Cristian Roldan said he looks forward to returning to the complex for training, noting players will need time to restore match fitness before MLS games can resume.
“I’m hearing that we’ll probably have about three weeks to a month to prepare for the season,” Roldan said in an MLS website post. “I think that’s fair. We understand it takes a lot to get your body back into a 90-minute rhythm.”
MLS guidelines for the workouts include temperature checks for players on arrival, hand washing and disinfectant stations and designated parking spots to maximize distancing.
“I do think it’ll be some on-the-ball stuff, allowing the players to get some touches in,” Real Salt Lake general manager Elliot Fall said.
“But at the end of the day, the players, they can’t be playing balls to each other, so it’s going to have to be stuff they can do on their own.”
Even solo practice sessions will help players by returning to familiar settings.
“I think there’s a real benefit to getting players back to the facility in any capacity, because I think, like all of us, we’re all looking for some level of normalcy and life to get back to some semblance of what our reality used to be,” Fall said.
Nelson said his quarantine workout plans were sorted by Dynamo coaches and staff.
“Their main concern is staying fit and staying on top of injury prevention things so that when we get back we can hit the ground running,” Nelson said.