The schedule for the resumption of the 2020 MLS regular season in home markets will be announced soon, MLS Commissioner Don Garber said during an appearance on FS1 on Wednesday night.
Garber was speaking during halftime of the first semifinal of the MLS is Back Tournament between the Portland Timbers and the Philadelphia Union. The tournament will conclude with the final in Orlando on August 11.
"What drives MLS is this soccer culture and getting into our markets and getting our players back and getting them home, getting them to play in their stadiums and being able to train in their training grounds," Garber said. "We will get back to our markets, we will be announcing our schedule soon. We are going to be able to play with fans where we can, and not play with fans in most of our markets.
"But we learned a lot in the bubble. We learned about testing, we learned about the incredible commitment of our players — wearing masks and socially distancing and taking real responsibility for keeping themselves safe. And that really will give us a sense of what we need to do finish the season, have the playoffs and have an MLS Cup before the end of the year."
After the early withdrawal of FC Dallas and Nashville SC, there have been no positive COVID-19 tests for the hundreds of players and club and league officials in the bubble in Orlando for several weeks.
"We were focused on the health and safety of our players and everybody involved and most importantly we were able to achieve that," Garber said. "We wanted to create something that would be unique and that would be special. Think about this, 51 games in 35 days and delivering for our fans, getting our players on the field, having our media partners and our sponsors being able to reengage, getting back that momentum that we had with the launch of the 25th season. That’s the thing that has us feeling pretty good tonight."
As for the tournament becoming an annual occurrence, as Philadelphia Union coach Jim Curtin suggested this week, Garber stressed that was not currently on the agenda.
"Perhaps this is something we could recreate in the early part of the year," he said. "There has been no planning for that whatsoever. Our focus is in our markets, in front of our fans when we can, getting our players home and getting back to some sense of normal once we are able to achieve a regular cadence of games."