Major League Soccer announced Thursday its clubs can return to full training. The 26 teams were under various training moratoriums since MLS suspended its season March 12 in efforts to help slow the spread of the novel coronavirus.
All phases of the league’s steps to return to play first have to comply with local health and government official guidelines and then follow detailed MLS safety protocols. To comply with Gov. Jay Inslee’s “Safe Start Washington” reopening plan, the Sounders FC are only permitted to hold voluntary, small-group trainings where just a soccer ball can be passed between social-distant players on a grid field at Starfire Sports Complex in Tukwila.
Despite MLS confirming Wednesday the league will play a tournament in Orlando, Fla., beginning as early as July 9, Garth Lagerwey, the Sounders’ general manager and president of soccer, said the club has no immediate plans to relocate their training site to a county or state that would permit full training. The OL Reign, which is based in Tacoma, moved training to the University of Montana to prepare without government restrictions for the National Women’s Soccer League’s Challenge Cup to be held in Utah beginning June 27.
“When we started a couple of weeks ago, guys had been good about social-distancing,” Sounders midfielder Harry Shipp said of the early stages of being quarantined. “Guys were happy to be outside. What we’re actually doing, it’s not soccer, it’s more fitness…the whole reason why we love soccer is the team nature of it and we haven’t really been able to experience that the last couple of weeks.”
MLS and the Players Association announced Wednesday the ratification of its collective-bargaining agreement that runs through 2025. The hope is there will still be a truncated season following the summer tournament.
Shipp, who represents the Sounders locker room, said not everyone on the team is in agreement to play this season even with MLS financing regular testing for everyone involved in the event. There are also concerns regarding injuries, Seattle being one of the last teams to get back on the field and now hold group training.
“There will be some alterations in terms of how guys are managed and loads are managed in Orlando,” Shipp said. “It’s impossible to expect guys to be at 100 percent right away when we really haven’t been training the past few months. All staffs around the league are going to be dealing with the same thing.”