The Sounders are expected to return to training next week, a Major League Soccer source told The Seattle Times on Friday.
The league, which shut down March 12 because of the coronavirus pandemic, has extended its moratorium on group training through June 1. But individual workouts at team facilities have been allowed since May 6 in areas where guidelines set by public-health officials were being met. That prevented the Sounders from initially participating, with Washington Gov. Jay Inslee’s stay-at-home order extended through May 31.
But the source on Friday said the Sounders are in the process of receiving approval from local government and health officials to open Starfire Sports in Tukwila for voluntary, individualized workouts beginning as early as Monday.
Once approved, Seattle would be the 17th of the 26-team league to resume some type of open-field training.
Inslee has unveiled a four-phase plan to fully lift the mandate should data show the spread of COVID-19 is under control, and he has offered leniency for counties and businesses less affected.
But Garth Lagerwey, the Sounders’ general manager and president of soccer, said Wednesday the club isn’t pressuring officials to allow them to train at Starfire.
“We’re going to do what they tell us we can,” Lagerwey said. “If that means you get a couple of fewer training sessions, then so be it. There’s much bigger things at stake here.”
Any sessions the Sounders hold would not be open to the public or media, and Starfire is not open for other activities.
The return also doesn’t mean MLS is any closer to resuming its season. Multiple reports detailed a league proposal to hold a truncated season beginning June 22 with the 26 teams centralized in Orlando, Florida.
Sounders players opting to train at Starfire are permitted to use only the outdoor portion of the facility. They are not permitted to use the locker room, gym or training room. But league players needing their facilities for treatment or injury rehabilitation can continue to do so.
Other MLS guidelines the Sounders must follow:
• Restricting facility access to essential staff only, with specific staff listed in the plan.
• Sanitization and disinfection plans for all training equipment and spaces, including disinfection of any equipment used by players (balls, cones, goals) between every session.
• Completion of a standard screening-assessment survey by each player before every arrival at the training site, and temperature checks upon arrival.
• Staggered player and staff arrivals and departures, with designated parking spaces to maintain maximum distance between vehicles.
• Player use of personal protective equipment from the parking lot to the field, and again on return to the parking lot.
• Staff use of the appropriate personal protective equipment throughout training, while also maintaining a minimum distance of 10 feet from players at all times.
• Hand washing and disinfectant stations for required use before and after individual workouts.
• Clubs will have the use of the outdoor fields at their training facility, divided into a maximum of four quadrants per field. A maximum of one player per quadrant may participate per training session with no equipment sharing or playing (passing, shooting) between players.
• An Emergency Action Plan for all COVID-19-related issues.
MLS teams played two games apiece before the season was suspended. Seattle, which won the 2019 MLS Cup, last played March 7 against the Columbus Crew at CenturyLink Field.
The league required players to remain in their market cities, but some exemptions were allowed. For the Sounders, teenagers Danny Leyva and Alfonso Ocampo-Chavez returned to their respective family homes.