MLS return: Commissioner Don Garber optimistic about potential tournament, remainder of 2020

It feels oh so long ago, but the last real, live MLS match played was an instant classic. LAFC and the Philadelphia Union traded blows at breakneck speed en route to a 3-3 tie on March 8.

Since then, as the world has dealt with the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic, nothing. 

Throughout it all, MLS continued to work on a return to play. And, after months of planning, consulting health experts as well as hashing out a new collective bargaining agreement, Wednesday saw a return to the field take a giant step forward with the announcement of a new CBA being ratified, clearing the way for a return to the field.

“Since the beginning of the suspension of our season, we’ve been focused on trying to develop a return to play for our teams," MLS Commissioner Don Garber told reporters on a video conference call Wednesday.

That plan is not finalized yet, but is expected to take the form of a tournament in Orlando.

"The Orlando tournament is a big thing," Montreal Impact GK and MLSPA representative Evan Bush said on a call with media Wednesday. "It's something the players were equally as excited to get started on and equally nervous." 

Despite the lack of supporters, the league is hoping to make the tournament a visual treat for those watching at home.

“I think the fans, media and our players, when they see how the games are produced, will be impressed with the technology and thought that’s gone into trying to test a handful of new concepts," Garber said. "We’ll have more cameras on this broadcast than would typically be on an ESPN, FOX or Univision game. There’ll be more access to audio in these broadcasts. We’ll be able to utilize some technology to deliver value to our teams."

The rest of 2020 is fluid. No decisions have been made about matches after the tournament, but there's optimism.

"This process started three months ago, I would have told you then that the likelihood of returning to our stadiums was zero," Garber said. "Today, there’s more of a likelihood that will happen.”

“Our goal is to play the season in 2020,” MLS President and Deputy Commissioner Mark Abbott added. “There’s an opportunity to go into even deeper December than we were before … I don’t think we’re looking at playing any of the regular season in 2021—possibly some playoff games. But the first choice is to complete it in calendar 2020.”

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