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How the Crew can replace missed matches due to COVID-19

What does the rest of the season potentially look like?

Thomas Costello

In the past week, sports leagues across the globe have announced league and individual competition suspensions. Since March 10, the number has grown with La Liga, the NBA and the U.S. National Teams postponing or canceling events. Today, Major League Soccer announced a similar postponement, stating that they will suspend matches for 30 days. This is in response to the impact of the pandemic of COVID-19, also known as Coronavirus.

In the next 30 days, Columbus Crew SC was scheduled to play two out of three matches in Columbus, with the club’s inaugural trip to Nashville SC, on March 21, as the lone away fixture. This weekend’s scheduled matchup against Real Salt Lake and Toronto FC on Saturday, April 4 are included in that time frame. An additional report, coming from Inter Miami FC reporter Chris Wittyngham, quotes Miami owner Jorge Mas as fully anticipating all 34 matches to be played.

How does this affect the remainder of the Crew schedule? No formal match rescheduling has been announced, but Steven Goff of the Washington Post reports that the second half of the season is where the schedule is likely to absorb postponements.

Room for Rescheduling

Where is there room for matches to be added in the fall? Outside of pushing the playoffs out for a few weeks to a month, there are options.

First, MLS recognizes the FIFA international break from Aug. 31 to Sept. 8. Playing through the break allows a cushion for at least one match impacted by the suspension, if not more with weekday matches an option. The downside being that national team players may not be involved in the competitions, as FIFA has not announced any formal updates to the international calendar.

The Crew plays matches weekly beginning Aug. 1, except a three-match stretch between Aug. 8 to Aug. 15 where Columbus will travel from Toronto to New York City FC before returning to MAPFRE Stadium against the New England Revolution. This opens the door for six weeks where a midweek fixture could be added when you remove the international dates and a week already featuring 3 matches.

Reschedule Concerns

Midweek matches are not ideal for multiple reasons. First, player fitness at a time when the team has been playing weekly matches since February’s preseason. Squad rotation will be key, with hopes that head coach Caleb Porter’s club can adjust to an increased workload. The last thing the club will need, if they are in a playoff position, is to lose players while they compete for the postseason.

Attendance is another area of concern. Weekday matches historically do not have as large of a draw as weekend fixtures. A positive of additional fall matches is improved weather conditions. Over past seasons, home matches have been front-loaded in the schedule, causing supporters to wonder if it was cause for lower annual attendance. If weekday attendance figures continue, it could also mean less club revenue and make for a lot of extra traffic to the Ohio Fairgrounds.

Lastly, the fairgrounds. There will be a few large events that will cause MAPFRE Stadium, and the surrounding parking lots, to be unavailable or have limited availability. The Crew plays a heavier away schedule in the beginning of August with a trip to D.C. United on Aug. 1 and previously mentioned Toronto and NYCFC matches. These are to potentially avoid a conflict with the Ohio State Fair, running from July 29 to Aug. 9.

On Aug. 28 and 29, the stadium can’t be used because of the Breakaway Festival, a music festival that uses the stadium and its grounds for multiple performers. This would give the team’s grounds crew a hurdle to jump for match day preparedness, which has been no issue for them in the past.

The final two matches of the season are away at Atlanta United (Sept. 26) and Inter Miami FC (Oct. 4), potentially to avoid the Quarter Horse Congress that runs Sept. 29 to Oct. 25. The fairgrounds availability has the potential to limit the chances to squeeze in two additional home matches in the fall months, but playoff home matches continue despite events like the Quarter Horse Congress, as history shows.

There will be more information as decisions within Major League Soccer and the Crew front office are made and become available. Keep checking back with the Massive Report for new information.