MLS considering tournament formats, closed-door matches as league mulls over return options

Don Garber MLS
Andrew Nelles
With play suspended to the coronavirus, commissioner Don Garber acknowledges that the league may need to get creative in order to finish up the season

MLS commissioner Don Garber says that the league is considering alternative formats once the league resumes this season, including potential tournament formats and behind-closed-door matches.

Like virtually every league around the world, MLS is currently suspended indefinitely as a result of the coronavirus pandemic.

The season was postponed just two matches into the campaign, with no return date set as Covid-19 continues to impact countries all over the world.

In the weeks since the season was suspended, Garber has stated his hope that the MLS campaign can include all 34 games, even if that means playing into December, but the MLS commissioner acknowledges that the league must accept that creativity may be needed.

"We have a bunch of cool ideas," Garber told TSN. "Could we go to a handful of locations and perhaps play a tournament? Could that lead into a new way of selecting the MLS champion if we're unable to get into local markets? And then if we're into local markets, what will those markets be and how will they roll out across the U.S. and Canada? Would it be a regular-season continuation, or maybe it could even be a part of this tournament concept? 

"All of it requires testing and all of it requires us to be able to get our players back to training as soon as possible. The moratorium was through the end of the month, that likely will be extended pretty soon because the prohibition on people in Canada being in groups is going to continue to stay in place for some time."

Regardless of the difficulties the league faces, Garber says MLS is committed to finishing up the season, no matter what form that season may be forced to take.

"Players play to win trophies. Win trophies for themselves, for their team, for their community. They want to be written in the history book and it is such a driver of our entire industry. We are doing everything that we can to ensure that we can crown a champion in 2020," he said. 

"That could be a tournament that we play in select markets, if we're able to manage testing and we're able to manage the health and safety of players and stadium personnel and obviously team personnel. It could be a form of an abridged MLS season, remember, we're only through two games so we have some time between now and the end of the year to play games.

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"We're looking at studio games, games without fans that would be produced in a way that might be really cool and fun and entertaining. It might be innovative in ways that, frankly, we would want to see going forward as we start breaking some of the formal traditions of how games have been produced.

"Ultimately, sports is about fans and we want to get our fans back into cheering for their favorite players and their favorite clubs. That decision will be made by the authorities in Canada and the authorities in the United States, either at the provincial level or at the state level and we still don't know when that time will be."