FRISCO, Texas — Major League Soccer is nearing a return to play, but a question that still remains is how training protocols will evolve as the league nears its first set of games in 2020.
The public has seen the first phase go into effect with the start of voluntary individual workouts, conducted at Toyota Soccer Center for FC Dallas. While phase two has begun for some clubs this week, it remains to be seen how training will change in the near future.
We’ve broken down the three separate phases of training during this return to play period as the league begins to take shape to resume its season.
Phase One: Voluntary Individual Workouts
The first of three phases was an important step for MLS when it was announced back in May that teams were able to host voluntary individual workouts for its players after nearly two months since the league suspended play.
All team staff, media and player personnel were required to maintain social distancing guidelines as well as take temperature tests and undergo proper sanitation. Each player was given his own quadrant of a field, where he was required to stay for the entirety of the training session. Each field had four players and one coach.
Testing was not necessary since teams were following social distancing procedures.
Phase Two: Small Group Training
The second phase, which followed individual workouts, is small group training in sizes of maximum six players.
Again, social distancing protocol would still be in effect, so testing would not be mandatory. Players would follow the same procedure at arrival of the training facilities, including a temperature check and sanitation.
FC Dallas has not begun phase two as of yet.
Phase Three: Full Group Training
The final phase is a complicated one, but would be necessary to execute in order to return to play — full group training.
In order to have teams train in full with each other, testing would be mandatory because of contact with one another. The league has a set of protocols that have been approved by doctors, and it plans to share these plans with the MLSPA soon. Once the players comply with those protocols, according to MLS President Mark Abbott, they will be able to begin full training.
“There’s two or three key issues,” Abbott said. “They have the testing capacity to test players during this time. Secondly, that they have local government approvals. And third, there’s a variety of protocols that need to comply with in terms of sanitizing facilities and PPE, all of which are outlined in detail. We’re looking forward to our teams going back to full-team training, and we’ve communicated to the union that if teams are able to train in their market, they can delay going to Orlando for at least one week.”