Major League Soccer announced Thursday an extended delay to its 25th season. The decision was made to align with guidelines outlined by the Centers of Disease Control and Prevention to not hold events involving 50 or more people for eight weeks in an effort to slow the spread of the novel coronavirus.
The league is targeting May 10 to resume competition. MLS initially announced a 30-day suspension last week, which would have lasted until April 18 for the Sounders.
The Sounders (1-0-1) had eight matches scheduled during the eight-week period. The club’s last game was a draw against the Columbus Crew at CenturyLink Field on March 7. Based on the updated schedule, the next match would take place on May 13 at the San Jose Earthquakes.
Sounders keeper Stefan Frei was alerted to the news after Mobley, his nearly 2-year-old Great Dane, nudged him awake. Leaguewide, players expected the moratorium on training to end Friday, and they’d return to work next week. MLS will likely announce an extension of that hold as well.
“We’ve been in limbo,” Fei said. He has been honoring the social-distancing request by government and health officials by remaining home with his wife, getting fresh air when they walk their two dogs and go to the grocery store.
“As much as soccer has been a huge part of my life, there’s bigger things in life than games. This is an entertainment and right now there are way more important things going on in this world,” he said. “It’s important as a collective and as individuals that we take certain precautions.”
MLS stated it will reschedule all games to have a complete season. And the Sounders said all tickets purchased for postponed matches will be honored on the new date.
The extended suspension also means pushing the MLS Cup to December instead of Nov. 7 as planned.
MLS held its championship in December from 2012-18. The Sounders won the 2016 title against Toronto FC in Canada, making league history as the coldest weather for a title game at 28 degrees.
In Washington, the COVID-19 pandemic has reached 1,187 reported cases with 66 deaths, according to the state’s department of health. The Sounders announced Sunday one member of its support staff tested positive for the novel coronavirus, but as of Thursday no one else had shown any signs of the disease.
“They’re recovering; they’re doing well,” said Garth Lagerwey, the club’s general manager and president of soccer. “And we’ve been fortunate enough that we haven’t had any other confirmed cases as of now.”
All players, including those part of the USL’s Tacoma Defiance, are being paid according to their contracts. Sean Muldoon, the Sounders’ head strength and conditioning coach, has provided all players with individualized workout plans to stay fit.
The positive news for the Sounders organization is everyone is safe.
“The thing I found inspiring is how much the community has rallied around this,” Lagerwey said. “This isn’t about us as individuals. This is about, we’re going to get through this collectively by sticking together. The Sounders hope to be a big part of the solution there.”