On Thursday night, the Columbus Crew secured the right to host the 2020 MLS Cup Final if the Black & Gold can make it to the championship game. This occurred thanks to Minnesota United’s 3-0 win against Sporting Kansas City, with the Loons sending the only remaining higher seed in the postseason than the Crew home.
But what could be a fairytale ending to an unusual 2020 MLS campaign, could have a swift adjustment. According to Jeff Carlisle of ESPN, MLS is making contingency plans in case any of the remaining teams can’t host the final due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
With cases in the U.S. setting new records around the country including death toll, the league looks to have a backup plan in place for its championship game. While the focus is to still play in either Columbus, Seattle or Minneapolis, there is a chance one of those cities is not able to host sporting events and MLS hopes to be prepared.
If the Crew defeats the New England Revolution on Sunday in the Eastern Conference Final, the Black & Gold would be set to host the MLS Cup Final. But if the game has to be moved, MLS is reportedly discussing a natural site game, including Orlando City SC’s Exploria Stadium because of field and weather conditions.
In Columbus, Ohio Governor Mike DeWine has initiated a mask-mandate in all public places outside and inside, if being six-feet away from other individuals isn’t possible. The state also has a curfew from 10 p.m. to 5 a.m. where some exceptions are doable such as coming home from work/school. The Crew is permitting a maximum of 1,500 fans at the match on Sunday.
Minnesota Governor Tim Walz shut down bars, restaurants, entertainment centers and fitness centers to help slow the spread of the virus. Minnesota United is currently not allowing fans to attend games in person, while cases are slowly rising in the city in which the Loons reside in.
King County, where the Seattle Sounders play home matches at Lumen Field, has a four-week health order in place that limits outdoor gatherings to five people outside the same household. The Sounders, like United, are not allowing fans to attend home matches.
So what could this mean for the four final teams left in the Audi MLS Cup playoffs? More likely than not, the MLS Cup Final will be hosted by the highest seed to make the championship game. If that is the Crew, then it will be at MAPFRE Stadium. But if the situation does not permit for the game to be played, MLS is reported ready to make a change in order to ensure the match is played.