MLS announces that teams can resume training for the first time since March amid coronavirus pandemic

On Thursday, Major League Soccer announced that the team training moratorium has been lifted after being put in place on March 12 in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic. Now MLS clubs can submit “individual club plans” in order to return to full team training going forward.

Individual club plans have to be reviewed and approved by each club’s medical staff and local infectious disease experts prior to submitting to the MLS. Full team training is going to be mandatory for all players as teams begin a return to the field later this summer

The press release also states that individual club plans “must remain in compliance with local health and government policies and adhere to detailed health and safety protocols that were created in consultation with medical and infectious disease experts.”

The MLS testing process will be as follows:

  • Players must complete a physical examination, and all players and staff must complete two COVID-19 PCR tests 24 hours apart, 72 hours prior to the start of training to test for the virus, and undergo one baseline antibody (serology) test.
  • Players will be cleared to train by their medical staff only after they have successfully completed their interim physical, completed two negative PCR tests and the serology test.
  • Players, coaches and select staff must complete PCR tests every other day and only those with negative results will be allowed to attend training.
  • Serology testing will be performed once every three months.
  • Individual club test providers must be authorized by the FDA and Health Canada. Turnaround time for tests must be no more than 24 hours.
  • If a player or staff member tests positive, the individual will be isolated. The isolated individual will be tested again at least 24 hours later to ensure the result was not a false positive.  All close contacts will be tested immediately.  Contact tracing will be performed at the direction of the club’s COVID-19 task force and local authorities.
  • A player or staff member that tests positive for COVID-19 may return to training only when cleared by the club’s Chief Medical Officer in consultation with the league medical team.
  • Any player or staff considered to be in a high-risk category for severe illness related to COVID-19 will not be permitted to participate in team training unless cleared by the club’s Chief Medical Officer.

In addition, MLS will have strict policies in terms of facilities and equipment use as well as safety processes.

Entry points to team facilities are to remain open to “avoid repeated contact with doorknobs or door exit bars.” The training rooms will be limited to no more than five individuals at a given time while also observing social distancing standards. Clubs are also expected to utilize multiple dressing rooms and assign players to the same ones for each training session. After every session, the training rooms, dressing rooms, gyms, and showers must be cleaned and sanitized.

In terms of player and staff safety, individual club plans are required to have an Emergency Action Plan for “all COVID-19 related issues.” The facility will be restricted to essential staff only and each player will have to complete a standard screening questionnaire upon their arrival to the training facility as well as having their temperature checked. Players are also expected to wear a face mask when in the training room and staff will be required to do the same. There will also be hand washing and disinfectant stations throughout the facility.

On Wednesday, MLS avoided a lockout as the league and MLS Players Association agreed to terms on several issues. The league is expected to have a five-week tournament at Walt Disney World later this summer as a means to resume the 2020 season.

Very few specifics for the tournament have been announced.

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