Major League Soccer on Thursday allowed its teams to move from individual workouts outdoors at their facilities to small-group sessions involving no more than six players.
Both types of training, which are voluntary, are the first steps toward resuming a season that was suspended in mid-March because of the coronavirus pandemic.
Minnesota United and all other teams must submit plans for approval to the league after they are reviewed and approved by each club’s medical staff and local infectious disease experts.
The league’s announcement includes details based on physical distancing measures intended to keep participants at least 10 feet apart:
• Clubs must use outdoor fields because indoor training facilities remain closed to all players except those requiring medical treatment or rehabilitation.
• Clubs may divide each full field into halves and then six zones spaced at least 10 feet apart in each half. It may assign a group of no more than six players to a single group and one player to a single zone.
• Players may pass the ball and shoot on goal within their own group, but must stay 10 feet from each other. They may train only with players in their own group and may not interact with other groups
• Coaches and technical staff must wear a face mask at all times and may direct players from the field’s perimeter but can’t enter the field. Only approved equipment, including balls, small and regular goals, small discs or cones, rebounders, can be used. Goalkeepers may not spit on their gloves and must disinfect and sanitize their gloves after each training session.
All of it is an attempt to get the league back playing games, quite possibly in a quarantined World Cup-type tournament in Orlando involving all 26 teams and almost certainly without fans whenever games resume.
Loons players returned to supervised individual workouts two weeks ago after they tried to stay fit while sequestered in their homes for two months.
“It has been great to train with the group and see your teammates,” new striker Luis Amarilla said through an interpreter in an interview conducted by team employees after a Blaine training session. “It’s satisfactory, obviously, to start over again with the hope that we can start to compete again.”
Amarilla spent those two months far from his family and friends in Paraguay and isolated from his new teammates as well. Uruguayan teenager Thomas Chacon has done the same.
“You sometimes have to make certain sacrifices in all this,” Amarilla said. “The truth is, I do miss my family very much. I won’t deny that I hope to see them soon. Everything that’s happening is very sad, but we also have to face the situation and be realistic. So all that’s left for me is to wait, wait that this gets resolved with a happy ending.”