From league release:
NEW YORK (May 28, 2020) – Major League Soccer today announced that clubs may begin to use outdoor team training fields for small group training sessions in compliance with detailed health and safety protocols that were created in consultation with medical and infectious disease experts. All small group training sessions are voluntary and may not be in conflict with local public health official or government policies.
The small group training sessions will provide an opportunity for players to perform fitness and technical workouts in small groups while maintaining physical distancing protocols, even within individual groups.
Prior to initiating small group training sessions, every team must submit to MLS a club-specific plan that has been reviewed and approved by the club’s medical staff and local infectious disease expert. Building on the health and safety protocols implemented for voluntary individual workouts, club-specific plans must adhere to the following guidelines for voluntary small group sessions:
- Clubs must utilize outdoor fields as indoor training facilities remain closed to all players with the exception of those requiring medical treatment or rehabilitation, under the direction of the team medical staff, that cannot be performed from the safety of their residences.
- Clubs may divide each full field into a maximum of two equal halves and may assign a group of players to each full or half field.
- Clubs may clearly define up to six zones per half field, spaced at least 10 feet apart. Only one player may be in a zone at any given time in order to maintain physical distancing standards throughout the session. For clarity, a maximum of six players may be assigned to a single group with each player accommodated in a separate zone.
- During training sessions, players may switch zones within their own group only if another player is not currently in that zone and players must maintain a physical distance of at least 10 feet from all other players and coaches while moving between zones
- Within a single group, players may pass the ball and shoot on goal; however, all training exercises must allow players to maintain a physical distance of at least 10 feet from one another.
- Players may only train with the other players within their own group and may not interact with other groups. While the groups may not be rearranged during a single training session, clubs may rearrange the combination of players in each group from session to session.
- Coaches and technical staff must wear a face mask at all times and may direct players from the perimeter of the field, never entering the field, while maintaining at least 10-feet of distance from other staff and players.
- Only approved equipment may be used during training session including balls; small and regular goals; rubber dots; small discs and cones; rebounders; rings; GPS Pods and personal equipment that is not shared between players. Mannequins, poles, bands, weights and ball machines may not be used.
- Goalkeepers may not spit on their gloves and must clean, disinfect and sanitize their gloves after each training.
During small group sessions, clubs must continue to maintain the health and safety protocols implemented for the voluntary individual workout sessions, including:
- Restricting training ground access to essential staff only, with specific staff listed in the plan.
- Sanitization and disinfection plans for all training equipment and spaces, including disinfection of any equipment used by players (balls, cones, goals) between every session.
- Completion of a Standard Screening questionnaire by each player prior to every arrival at the training site, and temperature checks upon arrival at the facility.
- Staggered player and staff arrivals and departures, with designated parking spaces to maintain maximum distance between vehicles.
- Player use of personal protective equipment from the parking lot to his designated position on the field, and again on return to the parking lot.
- Staff use of the appropriate personal protective equipment throughout training, while also maintaining a minimum distance of 10 feet from players at all times.
- Hand washing and disinfectant stations for required use before and after sessions.
- An Emergency Action Plan for all COVID-19 related issues.
The league-wide moratorium on full team training remains in place through, and including, Monday, June 1.
Obviously, this is the next step forward in a potential return to play, and a significant one. How it dovetails with the potential/likely Orlando tournament will be a situation to watch. Does this change make it more likely that a traditional MLS season prevails instead (likely thanks to the objections of the MLSPA)? Does it make such a situation happen more quickly? Was it part of a potential Orlando plan all along?
Obviously, we’re approaching a key stretch going forward with the MLSPA communicating with its constituents, and expected to get back to the league with a response in the not-so-distant future. No matter the nature of that response, certainly we’re seeing an increased likelihood of soccer returning the more steps along this path we see.