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Major League Soccer 'extremely unlikely' to resume play by mid-May

By Sean Walker, | Posted - Apr. 14, 2020 at 9:45 a.m.

SANDY — That May 10 restart date for Real Salt Lake and the rest of Major League Soccer?

Don’t count on it, the league says.

MLS is “extremely unlikely” to resume in mid-May from the suspension caused by the impact of the novel coronavirus, according to a statement released Tuesday from MLS headquarters in New York.

“Although we had hoped to return to play in mid-May, that is extremely unlikely based on the guidance of federal and local public health authorities,” the prepared statement read. “Our goal remains to play as many games as possible, and while we currently have enough dates to play the entire season, we recognize at this time that it may become difficult to do so.”

MLS commissioner Don Garber told league broadcaster ESPN and Taylor Twellman this week that all options are on the table for the league’s return to play, including new tournament formats and neutral-site games, an abridged regular season, and “MLS Studio” matches — or those played behind closed doors without fans, similar to what leagues in Europe tried to do prior to shutting down to avoid the spread of COVID-19.

Garber, who is among the league executives to take a salary cut of up to 25% during the hiatus, also said that his office has yet to meet formally with MLS players about a player wage reduction or salary restructuring. Any changes to player contracts would have to be approved by the MLS Players’ Association.

“We continue to learn more every day from the medical experts, and we expect to have additional details in the coming weeks regarding when we can return to play,” MLS said. “As we have throughout this process, we will update our fans with every decision, and we thank them for their support and understanding during this extremely challenging time.”

Real Salt Lake has cut staff and reduced salaries across the board to help address the lack of funding caused by the league hiatus, including formally suspending at least some positions until at least mid-June.

RSL coach Freddy Juarez had already expected plenty of mid-week matches when the team returned to play by mid-May, he told reporters in a recent conference call. That probability seems even more likely, even for a club whose players came in fit early before the hiatus closed training facilities to all-but essential personnel after a few weeks.

“The majority of the guys came in pretty early, which was very encouraging, so I’m hoping us as a staff — the thing we’ve been telling the guys during this whole time is very consistent to the offseason,” Juarez said. “We can get guys that are very mature and they’re doing their workouts.”

The National Women's Soccer League has indefinitely suspended its season, originally scheduled to begin April 18, while setting an approximate target date for mid- to late-June to start league play.

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