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MLS issues COVID-19 statement; is RSL vs. Columbus in danger?

Coronavirus Illustration Photo by Smith Collection/Gado/Getty Images

With COVID-19 declared a pandemic by the World Health Organization, and with several cities, counties and states in the United States issuing restrictions on gatherings, Major League Soccer has issued a statement about the league’s plans.

Of note:

  • Postponed matches in San Jose and Seattle (March 21)
  • Increased stadium availability of hand sanitizer
  • Restricted locker room access
  • No “opening procession” with players and children
  • Charter flights are required for matchday travel “for the foreseeable future”

It would not be surprising to see Real Salt Lake’s match in Columbus against the Crew postponed; Ohio governor Mike DeWine said today that he would be issuing an order limiting spectators at live sporting events. His announcement preceded an NCAA announcement that March Madness would be played without a live audience.

Do not expect RSL vs. Columbus to be played behind closed doors, however; as reported by Jeff Carlisle (see tweet below), the league would rather postpone than play in empty stadiums.

The full statement from Major League Soccer follows;.

Following Santa Clara County’s legal order banning all gatherings of 1,000 people or more and the state of Washington’s decision to restrict gatherings of more than 250 people in King County, Major League Soccer matches in San Jose and Seattle on March 21 are postponed. The league and its clubs are evaluating the options for rescheduling the matches at a later date.

MLS clubs and stadium operators have implemented procedures to ensure the safety of fans and communities by increasing cleaning staff, disinfecting high-traffic areas, sanitizing the facilities before and after each match, and making hand sanitizer available throughout venues. MLS stadiums are also allowing guests to bring in their own bottles of hand sanitizer and encouraging fans who feel sick or are in vulnerable populations to enjoy the match at home. Clubs also will communicate with fans in advance of matches and post in-stadium signage to further educate about everyday preventative actions advised by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and Public Health Agency of Canada (PHAC).

In addition to the procedures at MLS stadiums, the league and clubs are also taking measures to ensure we have a safe environment for all who participate in our matches, including players, coaches, staff, referees, journalists and business partners. This includes restricting locker room access to players and essential club staff, suspending the opening procession in which MLS players and youth soccer players enter the field side-by-side , postponing player appearances and autograph sessions, and limiting fan experiences during team warm-ups. Also, the league has mandated that players, coaches and essential staff must travel to matchday via charter flights for the foreseeable future.

Providing a safe and healthy environment for our fans, players and everyone at MLS matches is our top priority. During this rapidly changing issue, MLS remains in direct contact with the relevant governmental agencies including the CDC and PHAC, and is also coordinating with other sporting organizations regarding COVID-19. In addition, every MLS club is in continuous dialogue with local and regional health authorities.

We will continue to monitor the situation and will provide any updates at the appropriate time.