MLS considers sending teams, including RSL, to Orlando in ‘bubble’ scenario

(Francisco Kjolseth | The Salt Lake Tribune) Portland Timbers defender Jorge Villafana (4) pressures Real Salt Lake midfielder Everton Luiz (25) along with Portland Timbers forward Dairon Asprilla (27) as Real Salt Lake and the Portland Timbers play in their first MLS playoff game at Rio Tinto Stadium in Sandy, Utah on Saturday, Oct. 19, 2019.

Less than two weeks after Major League Soccer allowed its teams to hold voluntary individual workouts for its players, a scenario detailing how the league can start playing games again has surfaced.

MLS has proposed a scenario under which all 26 teams would convene in Orlando by June 1 and start games a few weeks afterward, per multiple reports that were confirmed by The Salt Lake Tribune. The Washington Post first reported the proposal, which would have practices and games without fans played at ESPN Wide World of Sports.

The news comes as the confirmed cases of COVID-19 have risen since Florida went into its first phase of reopening its economy and is mulling the transition into its second phase. Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis on Wednesday welcomed professional sports teams to his state, and addressed the MLS proposal specifically during a news conference.

“Do it,” he said.

Exactly when teams would starting playing games, and what that would look like, seems to be where there’s some wiggle room. The Washington Post reported that games would start July 1, while The Athletic reported they’d start June 22 before augmenting that date and saying July 1 was more likely.

Real Salt Lake coach Freddy Juarez said Tuesday that he’s heard “a bunch of different things” regarding resumption of games, mainly surrounding a tournament that would either take place on its own or somehow be incorporated into the regular season. He said the team and front office will discuss further details within the next week.

Teams would be quarantined for a week upon arriving to Orlando, then hold individual training the second week and move to full training the week after that, per The Athletic. Once games start, teams and their support staffs would be in Florida for around two months, and families would not be allowed.

Juarez has said multiple times that players would likely need four weeks of training before they’d be fit enough to play games and prevent injuries. He said Wednesday that teams probably won’t get four weeks, but with the individual sessions now allowed and potentially a shift to small groups soon afterwards, three weeks as a team would work.

“If we go through the steps and have maybe two to three weeks of each step and then get to the whole team, then I think two to three weeks would be OK there,” Juarez said. “If we don’t take all those steps, or they’re rushed, I would like to have four weeks if possible. I don’t know if that’s going to happen.”

There’s been some talk about allowing teams five substitutions instead of three to mitigate the heightened potential of injuries. Juarez has had some experience with that situation at the academy level, and he said having that many subs “killed the rhythm of the game.”

Possibly the most important consideration regarding a “bubble” scenario in Orlando or any other city is what would happen if a player tests positive for the coronavirus. The German Bundesliga, which returns without fans this weekend, has already had an outbreak recently.

A league source told The Tribune that if an MLS player tests positive, what will likely happen is what the Bundesliga has outlined: it’s treated like an injury. The player is isolated, and play continues.