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MLS permits voluntary small group training sessions for clubs

Crew players will finally be able to train together.

New York City FC v Columbus Crew SC Photo by Emilee Chinn/Getty Images

We are another step closer to the return of Major League Soccer play with the league’s Thursday morning announcement that clubs can start voluntary small group training sessions at outdoor practice facilities.

While the league-wide full team training moratorium is still in place till Monday, June 1, clubs can return to small-group training so long as they follow proper health and safety protocols. Before Columbus Crew SC players can return to Obetz, the club must submit and get approval on a formal plan from Crew’s medical staff and Columbus infectious disease experts.

Each club proposal must follow these guidelines which include:

  • Clubs using only outdoor facilities as indoor facilities are still closed
  • Clubs may divide full field into two equal half-fields and can assign players to each full or half field
  • Clubs can divide up to six zones per half field, at least 10 feet apart. For example, up to six players can be in a single group session with each player being in a separate zone
  • Players can move between zones as long as 10-feet distance is kept and a zone is not occupied
  • In a group, players can pass and shoot on goal but must maintain the 10-feet distance apart
  • Players can only train with players within their own group. Group pairings can only be reshuffled from session to session
  • Coaches and technical staff must wear a mask and maintain 10-foot distance while never entering the field
  • All equipment must be approved for use. Mannequins, poles, bands, weights and ball machines are NOT allowed
  • Goalies cannot spit on their gloves and must clean and sanitize gloves after each session

Along with the soccer-specific guidelines, every team must follow these health and safety protocols that were implemented for individual sessions.

These include:

  • Training ground access only for essential staff
  • Disinfection of all training equipment and spaces before and after every training session
  • Standard screening and temperature check of every player upon arrival
  • Staggered arrivals of players and staff with properly distanced parking
  • Player use of protective equipment when walking from parking lot to facility and vice versa
  • Staff’s use of protective equipment throughout training
  • Hand washing stations for required use before and after every session
  • Emergency action plan for all COVID-19 related issues

With all these guidelines in place, Crew players will finally be able to see each other and interact from a social distance and train at Obetz in preparation for the eventual return of the MLS season. Around the world, sports leagues are planning and setting dates for their returns.

Reports suggest that the MLS return-to-play tournament in Orlando will have a shorter time frame than initially discussed. Teams could head to Walt Disney by late June and play a tournament that’s just over a month long.

Elsewhere in the soccer world, the Bundesliga in Germany is back in action, La Liga in Spain will return on June 8, the Premier League in England announced it will resume on June 17 and the NWSL will have a 25-game tournament in Utah starting on June 27.

Outside of soccer, the NHL announced a 24-team playoff in place of resuming and completing the regular season. No date has been announced for return. Columbus is in consideration as one of the two hub cities for hockey’s return.

Massive Report will continue to follow and provide updates on this story when they become available.