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MLS players upbeat during first day of individual training but know more hurdles loom

Players across MLS participated in voluntary individual workouts at their team facilities on Wednesday, stepping foot on regulation pitches for the first time in 54 days. 

Four teams returned to training on Wednesday — Orlando City, Inter Miami CF, Atlanta United and Sporting Kansas City. More clubs such as Nashville SC are expected to join this week under a new MLS rule that allows voluntary individual workouts under strict safety protocol.

The visual of players training on their team fields stirred excitement throughout the league, and some clubs fed that buzz by using hashtags such as #SoccerIsBack on social media.

But Nashville SC general manager Mike Jacobs emphasized patience as teams begin the long process of returning to match play.

“It’s easy to kind of get drunk on the whole euphoria of being like, ‘We’re back,'” Jacobs said. “The reality is this is not a return to play just yet.”

The return to training on Wednesday reflected the massive impact of coronavirus on everyday life. MLS protocol for these outdoor sessions outlines how to avoid contact that could potentially spread the virus.

Players receive designated parking spots at the club facility, with each car separated by at least three empty spots. Upon arrival, players undergo a screening process that includes a check of their temperature. Once they are cleared to enter the facility, each field is split into quadrants and players are required to remain within their assigned section.

Players must wear masks from arrival until they have reached their designated quadrant on the field. While training, players can’t physically interact in any way, including passing the ball or shooting the ball past anyone else.

This first day of training was unlike any players had previously experienced.

Nashville SC captain Dax McCarty said despite the limitations, he’s looking forward to using team pitches after almost two months of quarantine.

“Players have been missing those fields, missing the scenery, just missing the the smell of the grass,” McCarty said. “There’s a lot of, I think, cautious optimism and excitement that comes along with news like this. This is the first baby step towards hopefully getting back to a normal routine. … The best part about all of this is that we get to go back to our team facilities, which in my estimation are, in terms of the fields, some of the best in the league.”

Kickin' it under the sun. ☀ pic.twitter.com/dzMQEZoUar

— Major League Soccer (@MLS) May 6, 2020

Providing a safe playing surface was one of the main motivations behind this return to the pitch.

Before the new league protocol, players were finding any scrap of grass they could to train on — a backyard, a lawn at an apartment complex, local high school fields. These spaces were rarely regulated to the same level as a team facility, which meant players were training on worn-down, uneven and potentially unsafe surfaces.

Players were also often heading to public areas — such as parks or local public fields — that would open them to the possibility of being approached by strangers or fans. Jacobs said this put players at a higher risk of possibly being exposed to the pandemic. It was a challenge teams across the league faced, regardless of climate or density of their city.

“A lot of guys live in condos, so they don’t have access to parks, they don’t have access to green space backyards,” Inter Miami captain Luis Robles said. “For the most part South Florida, during this this self quarantine, [has] shut down all the parks. There just wasn’t the access that they needed in terms of space to do all the running to really say fit. So for us to be out here using this space is great. It’s nice to be back.”

On the grind. #InterMiamiCF pic.twitter.com/ZJy1Wy1NS7

— Major League Soccer (@MLS) May 6, 2020

As MLS looks to return to matches, Jacobs said the league will implement the return to full-team training in a series of phases. Intermediate stages could include small-group training and the use of indoor facilities such as weight rooms.

As teams progress through this initial stage of training, Jacobs said the league will track the ability of each club to implement protocol and maintain safety. This will be used as a benchmark for when and how to progress to the next phase.

“If we have any hiccups, the chance now is when we go back to square one, we actually would be further back in our ability to kind of return to getting games in the field,” Jacobs said. “So this is a really critical stage, not only for Nashville SC but for our whole league.”

Despite the excitement about returning to the pitch, the next steps for the league remain largely unclear for players, coaches and executives. The league has yet to announce how many weeks of full-team training would be necessary before a return to matches, although coaches and players such as McCarty suggest four weeks is the ideal.

One issue is the disparity in how different markets have been hit by the pandemic. Although some teams were able to take advantage of the new league protocol on Wednesday, others located in harder hit regions could not open facilities due to local government restrictions. 

For instance, as of Wednesday there were 19,415 COVID-19 deaths in the Bronx, the neighborhood where New York City FC holds matches at Yankee Stadium. That’s 134 times greater than the total number recorded in the entire state of Kansas, where Sporting KC plays. 

Sporting KC captain Matt Besler said his zip code had reported only seven cases when he checked it this week. It made him more confident leaving his home than players in other regions might have felt. As long as the disparities persist, it will be difficult for the league to return to regular play without moving players to different cities.

As the league and the players look forward, Besler said his focus is on playing as many games as possible. This could mean playing matches without fans, but the captain said his priority is making sure players have a say in how the season progresses.

“I’m confident that whatever does happen and whatever the solution is going to be, I think the players’ voices will be heard,” Besler said. “We all want to try and play as many games as possible and we want to finish out our season. I don’t know if that’s possible or what that could look like. But I can tell you that you know from both sides, we’re going to try and do everything we can to do that.”

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Original author: Julia Poe, Pro Soccer USA

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MLS allows clubs to use outdoor team facilities for voluntary, individual workouts

Major League Soccer granted permission to all clubs to begin using team facilities for individual workouts starting Wednesday, the league’s first step toward a gradual return to play amid the coronavirus pandemic.

The workouts cannot conflict with any local or state government health policies.

Players will be allowed to practice on team fields as long as they are outdoor and following health guidelines. The league also released a detailed protocol that must be followed throughout workouts.

“By allowing players, on a voluntary basis, to utilize team-operated fields for individual workouts, MLS clubs will be able to provide a controlled environment that ensures adherence to safety protocols and social distancing measures for players and staff,” the league said in a statement.

Athletes will not be able to access indoor facilities such as locker rooms and weight rooms. 

Clubs will be required to divide their fields into four quadrants, with only one player allowed in each quadrant at any given time. Players will not be allowed to share balls during these training sessions, which will eliminate any passing or shooting drills.

Before a team can begin its individual training sessions, a club must submit a plan to the league. That plan must include protocol for issues such as how to restrict facility access to essential staff and how to sanitize equipment and spaces, including balls, cones and goals.

Players will have to perform a Standard Screening Assessment before utilizing the facility, which will include a check of their temperature to ensure possibly infected players aren’t using the fields. Teams will also need to create a schedule that allows for staggered arrival to the team facilities to avoid any contact between players or coaches.

Staff and players will be expected to use protective equipment and hand washing and disinfectant stations must be installed.

Clubs also must develop a COVID-19 emergency action plan and assign a staff member to oversee implementation of MLS safety requirements.

The MLS small group and full team training moratorium will continue through at least May 15. 

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Original author: Julia Poe, Pro Soccer USA

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FIFA wants to let teams use 5 substitutes to aid players after pandemic shutdown

GENEVA — With soccer facing a congested program of games caused by the coronavirus pandemic, FIFA wants to let teams use five substitutes.

FIFA detailed a temporary plan Monday to help prevent more injuries due to “potential player overload” as soccer competitions catch up with a backlog.

The proposal gives competition organizers the option of letting teams use five substitutes instead of three in 90 minutes, and a sixth in knockout games that go to extra time.

“One concern in this regard is that the higher-than-normal frequency of matches may increase the risk of potential injuries due to a resulting player overload,” FIFA said in a statement.

Clubs such as Manchester City face an intense program in three competitions if games can safely restart in the coming weeks.

City could have 19 more games — 10 in the Premier League, up to six in the Champions League and up to three in the FA Cup — being scheduled in as few as 10 weeks through August.

Juventus could need 20 more: 12 in Serie A, up to six in the Champions League, and two Coppa Italia games.

The proposal must be signed off by soccer’s rule-making panel, known as IFAB. Teams would still be limited to three stoppages of play to make the changes.

IFAB approval should be a formality on a panel which includes officials from FIFA and the four British national federations.

FIFA suggested retaining the five-substitute rule next season, which looks likely to start later and be condensed into less time.

It would also apply to all national-team games through December 2021.

World Cup qualifying programs are already behind schedule in Asia and South America, and are on track to face problems in Europe next year.

After UEFA postponed the 2020 European Championship by one year, that tournament is now set to take fixture dates in June from the 2022 World Cup qualifying groups.

One solution would be national teams playing three competitive games instead of two during the 10-day periods when clubs are mandated to release players for international duty.

The substitutes proposal was announced in anticipation of soccer resuming though it is unclear when that will happen. Games will be played in stadiums without fans for at least several weeks and likely longer.

“FIFA’s main principle is that health comes first and that no match or competition is worth risking a single human life.” soccer’s world body said.

The post FIFA wants to let teams use 5 substitutes to aid players after pandemic shutdown appeared first on Pro Soccer USA.

Original author: Graham Dunbar, Associated Press

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FIFPRO concerned about players’ mental health with soccer shut down

Socially isolated, cut off from their teammates. Worried about when they will play again. Concerned about their finances and the future of their sport.

The global union for soccer players has found its members are struggling with increased levels of anxiety and depression during the coronavirus pandemic that has shut down most leagues.

As clubs focus on keeping players fit during national lockdowns and faced with cost-cutting needs, FIFPRO is urging them not to neglect providing mental health provisions.

“If a club has to decide between having a second or third right back or a clinical psychologist within the medical team, you know which choice you are going to make, so it’s a kind of priority,” FIFPRO Chief Medical Officer Vincent Gouttebarge told the Associated Press on Monday. “Within the medical staff at any club, we know that the physical health of players is a main priority. But now we have enough objective data that show that mental health is as important as the physical health.

“We need to have an interdisciplinary medical team in place within clubs in order to take care of the mental health of the player.”

Reinforcing the need for clinical psychologists or psychiatrists to be made available to players is a survey led by FIFPRO of 1,602 professional players in Australia, Belgium, Botswana, Denmark, England, Finland, France, Ireland, Malta, the Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, Scotland, South Africa, Switzerland and the United States.

It found 22% of female players and 13% of their male counterparts reported depression symptoms when asked in recent weeks, around twice as many as a separate survey with a smaller sample size of 307 players found in December and January.

The findings are only indicative of the mental health issues in soccer due to the small sample sizes and non-scientific polling.

“When you are not engaged with your family, with your teammates, then you have, of course, a decrease of social support and that is likely to lead to an higher rate of mental health symptoms,” Gouttebarge said. “The uncertainty about the end of competition and the uncertainty for the future in the football industry is obviously something that plays a role.”

Players have been away from their teams in most of the world for more than a month as governments try to contain the spread of the COVID-19 disease, although limited training has resumed in Germany.

Players will need several weeks to get match fit again before competitive games can resume. Europe’s major leagues are still trying to find a way of completing their seasons by extending beyond their usual endpoints around May and June.

“We have concerns on match congestion that might be related to resuming the competitions right now and trying to rush towards the end of the season,” Gouttebarge said. “The number of matches played within a few weeks and the very limited number of recovery days between matches.”

If UEFA’s optimistic planning allows the Champions League final on Aug. 29 — three months later than originally scheduled — next season could begin almost immediately in an attempt to recover lost time. With the 2020-21 season due to end for men with the rearranged European Championship, it could mean a lengthy continuous spell of competitive games.

“This season might be very long for many players, so this is a concern,” Gouttebarge said. “The international match calendar has been, of course, under scrutiny for quite a while. We need to find a good balance for players so that they can perform optimally without risk for musculoskeletal injury.”

Sufficient breaks will have to be provided to players while leagues try to fulfil television commitments, having lost several weeks without matches already.

“It’s of course, very important to provide players with sufficient time to have a proper recovery physically and mentally,” Gouttebarge said.

The post FIFPRO concerned about players’ mental health with soccer shut down appeared first on Pro Soccer USA.

Original author: Rob Harris, Associated Press

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Utah Royals acquire European stars Sarah Bouhaddi, Dzsenifer Marozsan

The Utah Royals are the latest NWSL club to put the league’s new allocation money to use, acquiring two star European stars, according to a report by the Salt Lake Tribune.

Utah added goalkeeper Sarah Bouhaddi and midfielder Dzsenifer Marozsan after their contracts at Olympique Lyonnais in France end in June.

Bouhaddi is the starting keeper for both her club team and a member of the French national team, clinching a combined 16 titles with her club and 149 caps with the national team. Marozsan is a staple of the German national team, winning Olympic gold in 2016 and serving as the team’s captain from 2016 to 2019.

All transactions are currently frozen by the NWSL, but the deals for the two European stars had been agreed to prior to the season suspension was announced.
 
The acquisition of the two players reflects the importance of allocation money for NWSL clubs pushing to acquire major names from European sides. 

MLS releases club masks to benefit charity

Major League Soccer is selling masks featuring team logo in an effort to slow the spread of coronavirus.

The masks cost $15 apiece and are available with designs from all 26 clubs as well as the league logo. They are made from 100% cotton and include an insert for added protection.

All proceeds from the sale of the masks will be donated to Feeding America and Food Banks Canada, two charities the league has partnered with to fight food insecurity amid the pandemic. Additionally, mask producer Fanatics will donate one mask for every mask purchased.

Represent 𝙮𝙤𝙪𝙧 club while helping those in need ❤💙 #MLSUnites

All @MLS proceeds will be donated to @FeedingAmerica & @foodbankscanada PLUS @FansAuthentic will donate 1 face covering for every face covering purchased!

SHOP | https://t.co/lmX7kIWODJ pic.twitter.com/cuM9X8WaX6

— mlsworks (@MLSWORKS) April 19, 2020

Wayne Rooney: MLS ‘takes advantage’ of U.S. players

European star and former D.C. United player Wayne Rooney joined his former D.C. United teammate Quincy Amarikwa on his podcast, offering criticism of the trade system in Major League Soccer.

During his first week with D.C. United, Rooney said he was surprised when a teammate was traded immediately  after finishing a training session. 

“I was like, ‘Why? What’s going on here? Where is he going? What’s going on?’” Rooney said. “I spoke to [D.C. United captain] Steve [Birnbaum] a lot. I was like, ‘Can he do that? Is it that easy to do? Is it that easy to actually move someone on?’ I know it works that way in basketball and in the NFL, but those players get paid millions and millions of pounds. So, they can afford to actually do that, but MLS players can’t.”

Rooney said he believes the league needs to ditch this system of trading in order to become even with other leagues in Europe.

Cannon gets married amid quarantine

Widespread quarantine didn’t keep USMNT and FC Dallas defender from tying the knot. The star held a small wedding ceremony this weekend, marrying his longtime girlfriend Kendall.

The pandemic forced the couple to postpone their large wedding and maintain quarantine guidelines throughout the ceremony, but Cannon shared that it was still a special day for their family.

“In these times of uncertainty, the one thing I’ve been the most certain about since the first day I’ve met you was you,” Cannon wrote in a post on Instagram. “You have been the biggest blessing that Christ has ever given me and yesterday, I was finally able to call you my wife. You have been my best friend, biggest supporter, strongest rock, and kindest soul. This pandemic has shifted so many things in our lives but God’s timing is nothing short of divine.”

In these times of uncertainty, the one thing I’ve been the most certain about since the first day I’ve met you was you. You have been the biggest blessing that Christ has ever given me, and now I am finally able to call you my wife!! HERE’S TO THE CANNONS!!❤ pic.twitter.com/QWx3eMvCSc

— Reggie Cannon (@ReggieCannon15) April 19, 2020

Former USWNT star Osborne welcomes third daughter

Retired women’s soccer player Leslie Osborne announced the birth of her third daughter, Isabella, during the weekend. 

Osborne was a member of the U.S. women’s national team from 2004 to 2008, playing a major part in the team’s run in the 2007 World Cup. She is now a member of the FOX Sports broadcast team, most recently providing coverage of the 2019 World Cup.

Despite restrictions due to the coronavirus pandemic, Osborne said the delivery of her daughter went smoothly and the whole family is healthy and happy.

Added another future @USWNT ⚽baller to the squad yesterday! Meet Isabella Milan Lewis 💜 Thanks for all the love and prayers during this scary time. We are both healthy and happy ❤ pic.twitter.com/Sb3a46Jtxf

— Leslie Osborne (@LeslieOsborne12) April 19, 2020

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Original author: Julia Poe, Pro Soccer USA

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MLS kicks off 5-week video game tournament to fill void

Sporting Kansas City midfielder Wan Kuzain is more than your average gamer. He’s got street cred.

That’s because when he was 17, Kuzain accepted a challenge from noted video game enthusiast (and former NFL player) Chad Johnson — and beat him.

The former Pro Bowler known as Ochocinco tweeted afterward that the “losing experience was worse than the time I lost my virginity” and added a crying emoji.

So it’s no surprise that Kuzain will be Sporting’s representative in a virtual MLS tournament starting Sunday. A number of the league’s top players, including Chicharito and Nani, will participate in the nationally televised event.

It goes like this: Two players from opposing teams will face off in EA Sports’ FIFA 2020 game. Then the league’s eMLS players will compete in a second leg. The losing team is eliminated. Fox Sports soccer commentators will call the action over the five-week event.

Other sports have also moved to virtual competition during the coronavirus pandemic, notably NASCAR. Like the already established eMLS competition, NASCAR had an iRacing Series for gamers. Drivers joined when COVID-19 suspended real races.

Individual athletes, including Meyers Leonard of the Miami Heat and Women’s World Cup winner Allie Long, are also playing regularly on Twitch, a live streaming platform. The Phoenix Suns played out the season after the season was suspended on NBA 2K20 on Twitch.

One of the highlights Sunday will be a virtual ‘El Trafico’ rivalry match, pitting LA Galaxy striker Javier Hernandez, better known as Chicharito, against LAFC forward Adama Diomande.

MLS Works and FOX Sports will make a donation on behalf of the winning team to Feeding America after each episode. Donations will also be made to Food Banks Canada.

“You’ll see in some instances we’ve got some real gamers among our professional players. They’re going to show up to win. So while it is a great cause, we’re also out to entertain. I think you’ll see a real competitive edge come through as well, ” said Camilo Durana, the league’s senior vice president of properties and events.

Now 21, Kuzain said he’s been playing FIFA since the 2012 edition.

Kuzain was part of Sporting’s academy team before he was signed to the team’s USL affiliate, the Swope Park Rangers.

One day around that time he noticed that Chad Johnson was in the Kansas City area. Johnson was known at the time for dropping in on random gamers to play FIFA, so Kuzain — who had a picture of himself playing soccer on his Twitter profile — tweeted at him. The next thing he knew, Johnson was at his door.

“We played a couple of games. I’d say three or four,” Kuzain said. “He was really good. He was definitely worth all the tweets and commotion that he’s caused within the FIFA community.”

Afterward, Kuzain showed Johnson around a bit, taking him to the local indoor soccer complex.

“Like it’s crazy how nice he is and how he just can fit so many people that he doesn’t know into his schedule like that. So I’m really thankful for that experience,” Kuzain said. “And he did send a nice little tweet, and that was our promise, if I beat him he would shout me out.”

Kuzain signed with Kansas City’s first team as a Homegrown Player in 2018. He appeared in Sporting II’s first game before the season was suspended because of the coronavirus.

Asked if he was the best gamer among his Kansas City teammates, Kuzain didn’t mince words.

“It might hurt some feelings,” he said. “but I would say yeah, for sure.”

The post MLS kicks off 5-week video game tournament to fill void appeared first on Pro Soccer USA.

Original author: Anne M. Peterson, Associated Press

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MLS delays restart until June 8, discusses player salary cuts

Major League Soccer is pushing back restarting the season to at least June 8 and says it is also discussing possible salary cuts with the players’ union.

Teams had played two matches before the season was suspended on March 12 because of the coronavirus pandemic and the league had been looking at possibly resuming play in mid-May. The league would still like to play a full season.

MLS also said it is exploring possible “changes to player compensation” because of the financial hit the league and teams are facing.

“We are seeking to work collaboratively with the MLSPA to find a solution that provides a safety net for all players, opportunity to earn full salary in the scenario where all matches are played with fans, and in particular provides protection for the players at the lower end of the salary scale,” the league said in a statement Friday.

The Major League Soccer Players’ Association did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Possible salary cuts of as much as 50% for some players were first reported by ESPN, which cited sources. But those cuts would only kick in if games or the season were canceled.

A person with knowledge of the situation told The Associated Press that players would not be furloughed. The person spoke on condition of anonymity because the information is not being made public.

MLS and the players’ union agreed to terms of a new contract in early February, but it had not been ratified when the season was put on hold.

The league has long maintained that it prefers to play a full season. Possible scenarios include extending play into December and canceling non-league matches like the Leagues Cup between MLS and Liga MX teams. Games could also be played without fans in attendance.

The post MLS delays restart until June 8, discusses player salary cuts appeared first on Pro Soccer USA.

Original author: Anne M. Peterson, Associated Press

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Life without soccer: MLS offers online games for kids, training videos for all ages

MLS has launched two new sections of its website devoted to using soccer stars to help entertain kids and aid those who want to try out soccer training during the coronavirus pandemic.

As parents try to find ways to engage with children blocked from attending school or gathering groups to play, MLS is highlighting soccer related videos and games for kids on its website.  

Almost bedtime. 😌😴 💤

Here’s @tealbunb reading “Snow” by Roy McKie and P.D. Eastman (published by @penguinrandom).#SaveWithStories // #MLSUnites // #NERevs pic.twitter.com/gPGJ3V1uPm

— New England Revolution (@NERevolution) April 15, 2020

New England Revolution’s Teal Bunbury and Jeff Attinella read books to kids on video, while clubs are offering digital puzzles and coloring pages.

The league also launched “Train with MLS,” which features hundreds of training videos from MLS clubs for coaches, parents and recreational players of all ages and abilities. Check out a few examples below:

Montreal Impact reports first case of coronavirus in MLS club

The Montreal Impact announced Wednesday the first reported case of a club employee contracting COVID-19. The employee suffered mild symptoms for several days, has been quarantined and is nearing a full recovery.

There have been no other reports of coronavirus in the club, and the staff has been following social distancing protocol since the suspension of MLS play and training last month.

The Impact stated in a news release the club has communicated with government agencies and is following coronavirus pandemic best practices to help slow the spread of the disease.

Throwback: Brian Dunseth nets winner in Real Salt Lake’s first victory

Pro Soccer USA writer Julian Cardillo spoke with former U.S. men’s national team and Real Salt Lake star Brian Dunseth about his first goal for the club — a game-winning header in the final minutes of the team’s home opener to clinch the first win for Real Salt Lake.

The goal went down as one of the most celebrated in Dunseth’s career, and it’s one that he looks back on fondly to this day. Dunseth told the story of the match and the minutes leading up to the goal, along with the aftermath of the win — including a torn labrum from his Superman-like leap into the air.

“I always know the date is coming up, around this time of year, because my producer, Kenny Neal, and the team that calls Salt Lake games on broadcast will do a call back to the 2005 home opener date,” Dunseth said in a phone interview. “It’s still crazy. But the older I get, the more I feel it was just yesterday that we were all part of it. It’s wild to wrap my head around.”

Read the full story here.

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Original author: Julia Poe, Pro Soccer USA

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U.S. Soccer shuts down Development Academy; MLS launches new youth competition

U.S. Soccer announced it is shutting down all boys and girls Development Academy programs effective immediately.

In response, Major League Soccer is launching a new competition platform to provide matches for MLS academy teams and other youth development clubs that previously participated in the U.S. Soccer program.

The spread of the coronavirus pandemic previously led to the suspension of the 2020 Development Academy season. The 2020-21 season was slated to start in September.

This is the first major change made under new U.S. Soccer president Cindy Parlow Cone and new federation CEO Will Wilson, who were appointed in March. In a joint statement from Parlow Cone, Wilson and U.S. Soccer sporting director Earnie Stewart, the federation cited budgetary restrictions caused by the coronavirus pandemic as the immediate reason for the decision to shutter the DA.

However, Soccer America documented the problems with the academy system, including universal regulations that didn’t work well for various communities across the country.

“This was an incredibly difficult decision to make, but the extraordinary circumstances around the COVID-19 pandemic have resulted in a financial situation that does not allow for the continuation of the Development Academy program into the future,”  the statement read. “We know that suddenly discontinuing a program that has been with U.S. Soccer for many years is shocking, but these unprecedented times required acting now.”

In the absence of the DA, the federation said it will increase its efforts in coaching education and talent identification across the country.

The new MLS platform will look to fill the void created by the cancellation of the former U.S. Soccer program. The new league will include regular season matches and both regional and international tournaments against foreign youth clubs. 

Additionally, MLS is evaluating expanding this league to provide opportunities for girls.

“Participating in high quality, competitive matches on a consistent basis is essential to the development of our young players,” vice president and technical director of MLS player development Fred Lipka said. “Launching this new competition will allow us to consistently challenge players, staffs and teams, optimizing the potential of every player on the field.”

The U.S. Soccer Development Academy was founded in 2007 to create a foundation for youth development in collaboration with Major League Soccer. The academy programs for every team in MLS — including the league’s three clubs in Canada — were created in collaboration with U.S. Soccer and included in the boys’ DA system.

The U.S. Development Academy boys programs have produced a range of U.S. and MLS stars, such as Jordan Morris, Paul Arriola, DeAndre Yedlin and Gyasi Zardes.

U.S. Soccer has not collaborated with NWSL on women’s player development, with the league primarily sourcing its players from colleges and international teams. However, the federation did establish a girls’ program in 2017. The girls DA program collaborated with clubs such as Colorado Rush and Cincinnati United Premier Soccer Club, which had previously helped to develop stars such as Lindsey Horan and Rose Lavelle.

However, several girls clubs left the system in recent months for the Elite Clubs National League, which includes top programs across the country such as Real Colorado, which produced Mallory Pugh.

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Original author: Julia Poe, Pro Soccer USA

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Dr. Anthony Fauci: Only way sports can return this summer is without fans

Dr. Anthony Fauci says professional sports can’t return this summer with fans in the stands.

In an interview with Snapchat’s Peter Hamby this week, Fauci said the only way sports can return is if teams play matches without fans and confine players to hotels to prevent contamination.

“There’s a way of doing that,” said Fauci, a top infectious disease expert who is on the White House Coronavirus Task Force. “Nobody comes to the stadium. Put [the players] in big hotels, wherever you want to play, keep them very well surveilled. … Have them tested every single week and make sure they don’t wind up infecting each other or their family, and just let them play the season out.”

Fauci specifically addressed NFL and MLB seasons being played in isolation, saying he believes there would be enough interest from fans of the two sports to watch games remotely.

MLS announced Tuesday it is “extremely unlikely” the league to return in mid-May as previously planned. Commissioner Don Garber told ESPN’s Taylor Twellman the league is considering playing matches without fans and other options to play as many matches as possible.

LAFC coach Bob Bradley shares MLS memories  

As the pandemic forces him to take a pause after more than three decades as a manager, LAFC coach Bob Bradley reflected on his history as a coach in the NCAA, MLS and abroad.

ProSoccerUSA writer Glenn Crooks took a look at some of Bradley’s best memories — including coaching at Princeton, winning MLS Cups and managing big personalities. He also dove into his relationship with his son, U.S. Soccer captain Michael Bradley, and his well-known fiery personality on the sidelines.

“I am who I am,” Bradley said. “I always hear the bit about intense but I’m not sure it’s the right word. I try to be real – I try to be honest. Nothing I ever do is scripted – I don’t play act.”

Read the full article here.

England women’s national team makes joint donation to NHS

The England women’s national team joined players across the country offering support for the National Health Service through the Players Together initiative this week.

The squad announced Tuesday every player on the roster will make a donation to the fund, which works with over 150 NHS charities. The Lionesses join many Premier League players in their support of NHS and the Players Together movement. 

#PlayersTogether pic.twitter.com/nkyyh1delS

— Steph Houghton MBE (@stephhoughton2) April 14, 2020

LAFC owner Will Ferrell joins Jordan Harvey’s podcast

LAFC defender Jordan Harvey kicked off his new podcast with LAFC executive vice president Larry Freedman with a special guest — comedian and club co-owner Will Ferrell.

During the hour-long interview, Ferrell shared how he became a soccer fan and how an elementary school drop-off helped him forge a friendship with LAFC majority owner Larry Berg, marking the start of his relationship with the club.

“When I saw the model of the stadium, where it was going to be and what they were planning on doing I was like, ‘Oh, this is gonna kill,” Ferrell said. “This is gonna be a slam dunk.'”

Introducing Shootin' The Shot with @JordanCHarvey and #LAFC EVP and Chief Business Officer, Larry Freedman.

Take a sneak peek at tomorrow's episode with special guest and LAFC Owner, Will Ferrell. pic.twitter.com/ZHd7QTnMaC

— LAFC (@LAFC) April 14, 2020

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MLS says it will not resume play in mid-May as planned, will likely restart without fans

While MLS commissioner Don Garber remains “focused on getting in as many games as possible,” he said league leaders are evaluating a variety of options to resume play amid the coronavirus pandemic, including playing matches without fans.

Garber spoke with ESPN host Taylor Twellman on Monday night, outlining several ideas the league is considering, including changing the structure of the playoffs and playing at neutral-site venues.

MLS previously stated league officials hoped teams could play a full 34-game season despite a suspension of play due to the coronavirus, but MLS released a new statement Tuesday morning saying it is “extremely unlikely” that play can safely resume by May 10 as originally planned.

“Our goal remains to play as many games as possible, and while we currently have enough dates to play the entire season, we recognize at this time that it may become difficult to do so,” the statement read. “We continue to learn more every day from the medical experts, and we expect to have additional details in the coming weeks regarding when we can return to play. As we have throughout this process, we will update our fans with every decision, and we thank them for their support and understanding during this extremely challenging time.”

MLS Statement on Return to Play pic.twitter.com/BKuFw9Mb17

— MLS Communications (@MLS_PR) April 14, 2020

When the league does resume, Garber told Twellman it’s likely matches will initially be played without fans in the stands. These games would be called “MLS Studio” games and would still offer broadcast options for fans to watch from home.

Garber added the MLS training moratorium — which currently ends on April 24 — will be extended for “at least a couple weeks.”

The commissioner said the league has not formally discussed a reduction in player salaries; however, he said that will be expected if the suspension continues. 

The commissioner noted he is watching the progress of leagues in Europe to gain insight into how to proceed with a return to training or matches.

“Our hope is to still continue to do that but that decision can’t be made sitting here today,” Garber said. “The plan is to play as many games of the 34 game season as possible.”

ICYMI @thesoccerdon had news yesterday about what @MLS plans on doing with its season as of now.
Full interview on #BanterTT Wednesday. https://t.co/KCqZZy2NLUpic.twitter.com/A2RUlzJSS8

— Taylor Twellman (@TaylorTwellman) April 14, 2020

FIFA vice president says international soccer unlikely to return until 2021

A FIFA vice president overseeing the organizing body’s coronavirus task force said he believes most international soccer will not resume until 2021.

Concacaf president Victor Montagliani has been an active part of the FIFA group working to respond to the pandemic, which has now shut down most of the soccer world for over a month. Montagliani said he believes travel restrictions will limit the ability of countries to organize international matches. He added that widespread club play will need to resume before international play returns.

Due to this, Montiagliani said he believes national team matches could be canceled through November.

“I personally think that might be a bit of a challenge, not so much because of just the health issues around the world and the various degrees of preparedness, but also committing to international travel as soon as we come back,” Montagliani said in an interview with The Associated Press. “I think that domestic football is a priority. September is still in the books, but I would garner to say that I’m not sure it’s there on solid ground the way things are trending right now.”

University of Cincinnati cuts soccer program due to budget concerns

The University of Cincinnati announced it will discontinue its men’s soccer program immediately. Athletic director John Cunningham cited budgetary concerns amid the coronavirus pandemic as the reasoning behind the “difficult decision” to remove the program.

The NCAA canceled its championship season for winter and spring sports last month, including March Madness, one of the main streams of revenue for successful basketball schools such as Cincinnati. Currently, all training and recruiting is suspended for all NCAA programs with campuses across the country shut down and students attending classes online.

Cunningham added that the university will honor all scholarships for players on the current men’s soccer roster. Additionally, any student athletes looking to transfer will be released immediately.

“Our men’s soccer student-athletes have been outstanding representatives of the University in the classroom and on the field,” Cunningham said. “They may not fully understand this decision, but I want them to know they were truly and conscientiously considered. I am most sincerely grateful to everyone who has supported the men’s soccer program at the University of Cincinnati… Your legacy at UC will not be forgotten and your accomplishments will continue to be recognized.

Fans in Bundesliga pay for cardboard cut-outs in stadium

The German Bundesliga remains uncertain of when the league will return to play, but fans of Borussia Mönchengladbach are ready whenever their team returns.

When league play resumes, it’s likely that early matches will be played in empty stadiums. So supporters of the club have paid for life-sized cutouts of themselves to be placed in their seats to create a sense of a packed crowd.

The cutouts won’t be able to cheer or sing along throughout the games, but fans are doing their part to show support even if they can’t enter the stadium on match day.

Borussia Monchengladbach fans have paid to have cardboard cut-outs of themselves put in their stadium…

…so if the Bundesliga resumes behind closed doors, Gladbach will still have a crowd 👥 pic.twitter.com/BbmU5qz1he

— B/R Football (@brfootball) April 14, 2020

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LA Galaxy star Chicharito to be featured in MLS FIFA20 tournament

Chicharito has yet to make his mark in the rivalry between his Los Angeles Galaxy team and LAFC, but the star will get his first shot at a virtual El Tráfico match this weekend.

The star will represent the Galaxy in the eMLS Tournament Special, an online PlayStation FIFA20 tournament designed to entertain fans during the suspension of the MLS season.

Chicharito will face off against LAFC striker Adama Diomande Sunday, with the teams’ two professional eMLS competitors — Martin ‘RemiMartinn’ Oregel and Giuseppe ‘GODFATHER’ Guastella — playing afterward. The striker is one of many MLS players participating in the tournament, joining Nani, Tyler Miller and Paul Arriola.

The tournament be broadcast starting Sunday on FS1, with commentary provided by Fox Sports anchors Stu Holden, Rachel Bonnetta, Rodolfo Landeros and Mike LaBelle.

Matches will feature two legs — MLS players will face off in the first and then the professional competitors will take over for the second. The team with the highest aggregate score between the two legs will move on to the next round. All competition will take place remotely, with competitors playing from their respective homes.

Sixteen teams will take part in the tournament — the Chicago Fire, FC Cincinnati, LAFC, LA Galaxy, Minnesota United, Sporting Kansas City, D.C. United, New England Revolution, New York Red Bulls,  NYCFC, FC Dallas, Houston Dynamo, Vancouver Whitecaps, Toronto FC, Atlanta United and Orlando City SC.

The first rounds will pit rivals against each other, including Orlando City vs. Atlanta United, Houston vs. Dallas and New York Red Bulls vs. NYCFC. 

The tournament will air on five consecutive Sundays, with a final championship match on May 17. After each episode airs, MLS Works and Fox Sports will make a donation on behalf of the winning club to Feeding America and Food Banks Canada.

“The eMLS Tournament Special represents the spirit of MLS Unites by entertaining fans and giving back to our communities,” said Camilo Durana, MLS senior vice president of properties and events. “We’re thrilled many of the league’s top players are joining our eMLS participants to compete and also provide benefit for those on the front lines. We are also thankful to Fox Sports and all of our partners for their collaboration on the innovative series that will be both fun to watch and make a difference.”

Here is a look at the full schedule for the tournament:

Date Match 1 Match 2 Match 3 Broadcast
Sunday,
April 19
7 pm ET
Chicago Fire vs FC Cincinnati

Leg One (MLS): Francisco Calvo vs Kendall Waston

Leg Two (eMLS): Enrique ‘BITW7’ Espinoza vs Gordon ‘FIDDLE’ Thornsberry

LAFC vs LA Galaxy

Leg One (MLS): Adama Diomande vs Javier Hernandez

Leg Two (eMLS):
Martin ‘RemiMartinn’ Oregel vs Giuseppe ‘GODFATHER’ Guastella

Winner Match 1 vs Winner Match 2 FS1,
Fox Deportes
Sunday,
April 26
7 pm ET
Minnesota United vs Sporting Kansas City

Leg One (MLS): Tyler Miller vs Wan Kuzain

Leg Two (eMLS): Jay Adams vs Alexander ‘ALEKZANDUR’ Betancourt

D.C. United vs New England Revolution

Leg One (MLS): Paul Arriola vs Diego Fagundez

Leg Two (eMLS):
Mohamed ‘KingCJ0’ Diop vs John ‘JKO’ Oliveira

Winner Match 1
Vs Winner Match 2
FS1,
Fox Deportes
Sunday,
May 3
7 pm ET
New York Red Bulls vs NYCFC

Leg One (MLS): Aaron Long vs Sean Johnson

Leg Two (eMLS): George Adamou vs Chris ‘Didychrislito’ Holly

FC Dallas vs Houston Dynamo

Leg One (MLS): Fafa Picault vs Memo Rodriguez

Leg Two (eMLS):
Ihab ‘i9ibbs’ Abualneel vs Guillermo ‘Kid M3mito’ Trevino

Winner Match 1
Vs Winner Match 2
FS1,
Fox Deportes
Sunday,
May 10
7 pm ET
Vancouver Whitecaps vs Toronto FC

Leg One (MLS): Erik Godoy vs Marky Delgado

Leg Two (eMLS): Alex ‘exraa’ Gonzalez-Aldana vs Phil ‘PhilB94’ Balke

Atlanta United vs Orlando City SC

Leg One: Franco Escobar vs Nani

Leg Two: Paulo Neto vs Abe ‘FIFA Abe’ Valbuena

Winner Match 1
Vs Winner Match 2
FS1,
Fox Deportes
Sunday,
May 17
7 pm ET
Tournament 1 Winner
VS
Tournament 2 Winner
Tournament 3 Winner
VS
Tournament 4 Winner
Winner Match 1
Vs Winner Match 2
FS1,
Fox Deportes

 

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Life without soccer: Sporting KC provides daily hot meals to Kansas City community

Sporting Kansas City will launch the Sporting Community Kitchen next week, providing 1,000 hot meals each day through a partnership with City Foods & Events and Operation BBQ Relief.

On Monday, the kitchen will begin distributing 250 four-pack meal kits each work day to families and people who are unable to work due to the coronavirus pandemic. Locals can sign up through online registration, then pick up the meals at the curb of Children’s Mercy Park.

The meals will consist of a barbecue entree, two sides and bread for four people prepared by Plowboys Barbeque, an American Royal champion based out of Blue Springs, Mo. 

Daily registration will open at 8 a.m. CT and stay open until all 250 slots are filled. Families and individuals who sign up can pick up their meal outside the Budweiser Brew House at Children’s Mercy Park from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. on their assigned day. 

Heath says sports will bring communities together after coronavirus

Former Orlando City coach Adrian Heath weathered plenty of adversity during his nearly seven years as the Lions’ manager, including the shooting that killed 49 people at the Pulse nightclub in the final month of his tenure.

In a conversation with Orlando Sentinel columnist Mike Bianchi, Heath compared that tragedy to the current challenges faced by the Orlando and greater U.S. community due to the coronavirus pandemic. Heath said he believes sport will be able to unify many communities, including that of Orlando.

“When this is all over, I think we’re going to see a tremendous amount of people rallying together,” Heath said. “One thing that this has shown me is how much I love my job and how much I miss sports… We’re all waiting for the day that we can get back to normalcy, and when that happens, I think sports is one of the things that will bring everybody together again.”

Read the full column here.

Column: Ask club owners to save staff from furlough

One of the main storylines for clubs and leagues throughout the global shutdown of sports has been the question of how to support employees. From stadium workers who are contracted for game days to club personnel, many teams have chosen to furlough or otherwise suspend payment to these employees.

The Premier League clubs have faced major backlash from their supporters after failing to pay staff during the halt in play. Many athletes have stepped up to donate funds to these workers.

Pro Soccer USA writer Pardeep Cattry argues the expectation for supporting these workers should fall to the owners of individual clubs, rather than the generosity of players. 

Read the full commentary here.

Throwback: New England rookie Zack Schilawski breaks record with 11-minute hat trick

Only three rookies have ever recorded a hat trick in New England Revolution history, and none have done it with quite the same style as Zack Schilawski in 2010 — three goals in 11 minutes in his home town.

Pro Soccer USA writer Julian Cardillo took a look back at a key date in Revs history when Schilawski netted three second half goals for a 4-1 win over Toronto FC in the team’s home opener.

Read the full article here.

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Life without soccer: USWNT star Megan Rapinoe hosts new show ‘Prodigy’ on Quibi

USWNT and OL Reign star Megan Rapinoe is hosting a documentary series called “Prodigy” on the new short form video streaming service Quibi.

The eight-episode series focuses on the lives of talented young athletes and the strength they drew from their families to succeed. The first three episodes feature basketball phenom Jalen Green, Olympic gold medal-winning snowboarder “Red” Gerard and five-time national champion boxer Chantel Navarro. 

“I love watching sports, but it’s always the stories behind it,” Rapinoe said in an interview with People Magazine. “At the Olympics, I remember as a kid always watching every single backstory about all the athletes, then getting to watch the athlete you’re just so much more invested.”

Former Canadian keeper Karina LeBlanc separated from newborn after possible coronavirus exposure

Longtime Canadian women’s soccer goalkeeper Karina LeBlanc shared an emotional story of pregnancy in the midst of coronavirus on social media during the weekend. LeBlanc — who is the current head of women’s soccer for Concacaf — gave birth to her first daughter, Paris, on March 24.

After returning home, she began to face shortness of breath due to a pre-existing heart condition and when she returned to the hospital, LeBlanc said she was possibly exposed to the COVID-19 virus. 

Due to this exposure, LeBlanc is currently self-quarantined in her own home, unable to make physical contact with her husband or her daughter.

“I can’t hold her, touch her, put her down for bed at night which is really difficult for a mom who has just given birth,” LeBlanc said.

LeBlanc received an outpouring of support from the soccer community on social media, and said this is helping her stay positive as she faces 10 more days of the self-quarantine.

Thank you all for your prayers and positive thoughts.
You are all giving us strength during this time.

“Walk by faith and not by sight”#10moredays#HaveToKeepBloodPressureDown#TryingToStayPositiveandStrong pic.twitter.com/ZVLzxTdtxI

— Karina LeBlanc (@karinaleblanc) April 6, 2020

Announcer Phil Schoen looks back on first MLS match

Monday marked the 25-year anniversary of the first MLS match between the San Jose Clash (now the San Jose Earthquakes) and D.C. United, and no one had the same vantage point as announcer Phil Schoen of the day.

Pro Soccer USA reporter Julian Cardillo took a look back at that day with Schoen, who recalled his favorite memories of the 1-0 San Jose victory, including the phone call inviting him to call the game and Eric Wynalda’s thrilling last-minute goal.

He also shared the importance of PBS in building up a television audience for soccer in the U.S. for both commentators and viewers before the start of MLS.

“I think it was ethereal in a sense, like it wasn’t really happening,” Schoen said. “When I showed up to the stadium, I felt great anticipation and excitement. I think all the fans did. There was this excitement of finally having a soccer league again.”

Read Schoen’s full recollection of the game here.

Orlando Pride conditioning coach finds creative ways to keep team mentally, physically healthy

With the NWSL training moratorium extended for another month, Orlando Pride strength and conditioning coach Ivi Casagrande is utilizing technology to find new ways to challenge her players through at-home workouts.

From GPS tracking units to group workouts over Zoom, Casagrande said she’s just as focused on maintaining her team’s emotional health as she is on their physical fitness throughout the league suspension.

“It goes beyond assigning them workouts,” Casagrande said. “It’s about controlling the things we can control. It’s about giving them these things in the middle of that chaos, that’s what these players need.”

Read the full story here.

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MLS extends training moratorium through April 24

Major League Soccer extended its training moratorium for an additional week through Friday, April 24. During this time, players are restricted from using club training facilities unless they require medical treatment or rehabilitation that can’t be performed safely from home.

During this time, players are also expected to remain within their team’s market. Some players have been granted individual requests to travel via car, but the trips are at the discretion of the league.

The MLS season is currently slated to resume on May 10, with an eight-week suspension announced two weeks ago to comply with CDC guidelines that called for the cancellation or postponement of all gatherings of more than 50 people. That number has since been reduced to 10 people, with The 39 states issuing stay-at-home orders across the U.S. 

Last week, MLS commissioner Don Garber said the league still hopes to play every game of the season, with the expectation of pushing back the MLS Cup into late December.

“Once we are comfortable that we can get our players with three to four weeks of training, and that we have the guidance that we can get crowds back into our stadiums, then we will then begin the relaunch of our season,” Garber said. “Our intent is to play as many games as we possibly can.”

The league continues to coordinate its decisions with guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and the Public Health Agency of Canada.

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Major League Soccer launches MLS Unites in response to coronavirus pandemic

Major League Soccer has launched a new MLS Unites initiative, showcasing all the league’s efforts in response to the coronavirus pandemic.

The league released a video featuring teams and players throughout MLS offering support to fans and thanking doctors and other health workers who are helping fight the spread of COVID-19.

MLS also launched a new page on its website to host information about MLS Unites, including educational tools and its clubs’ community support efforts.

It’s time to rally and inspire. #MLSUnites pic.twitter.com/QFA1TFrN3R

— Major League Soccer (@MLS) March 30, 2020

MLS Unites will focus on three areas — education, entertainment and community involvement. The league will continue to promote health and safety messages with guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and other public health officials. With MLS play suspended through May, the platform will also offer content from around the league to entertain fans.

MLS also plans to showcase “community heroes” from each team’s market, highlighting a different hero each week. 

“Bringing together our Major League Soccer community, all while staying apart, is the spirit of MLS Unites,” MLS Commissioner Don Garber said. “During this challenging moment in history, I know we can count on the MLS family to come together when we need each other most. Together with our fans, players, teams and partners, we will shine a light on what can be done, and on the heroes leading the way.”

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Life without soccer: MLS extends training moratorium one week

Every day MLS, the NWSL and the USL are suspended due to the coronavirus pandemic, Pro Soccer USA will provide the latest news and updates, examples of what the soccer community is doing to pass time and some recommendations for readers to keep busy while hunkering down at home.

The Latest

Major League Soccer extended its league-wide training moratorium an additional week through Friday, April 3. Under this moratorium, team training facilities are expected to remain closed and players are expected to remain in their market and not train in groups.

The MLS season is currently slated to resume in less than seven weeks, with a target return date of May 10. This extended suspension was announced last week in accordance with CDC guidelines that called for the cancellation or postponement of all large group gatherings of 50 people or more during the ensuing eight weeks.

On Tuesday morning, MLS commissioner Don Garber emphasized that the league still hopes to play every game of the season and is currently brainstorming solutions to make this possible.

“Once we are comfortable that we can get our players with three to four weeks of training, and that we have the guidance that we can get crowds back into our stadiums, then we will then begin the relaunch of our season,” Garber said. “Our intent is to play as many games as we possibly can.”

U.S. Soccer president prioritizes settling with USWNT

In her first-ever press conference in her new role yesterday, U.S. Soccer president Cindy Parlow Cone said the top priority for the federation is to reach a settlement in its equal pay lawsuit with the U.S. women’s national team before the case goes to trial.

Parlow Cone doubled down on her dismissal of the sexist language used by U.S. Soccer lawyers that caused the resignation of former president Carlos Cordeiro and her assumption of the role. Claiming a “fundamental error” in the federation’s internal process, Parlow Cone said U.S. Soccer is investigating the issue while seeking settlement to begin the process of rebuilding players’ and fans’ trust of the federation.

However, she continued to support the U.S. Soccer defense that the men’s and women’s national teams perform different jobs, claiming the pay disparity came from separate collective bargaining agreements, not gender-based discrimination.

USWNT spokeswoman Molly Levinson fired back a firm response to Parlow Cone’s comments: “The solution here is clear, simple and unequivocal. Equal. Pay.”

Liga MX president tests positive for coronavirus

Liga MX president Enrique Bonilla tested positive for COVID-19 last week. In an interview with Adrenalina, Bonilla said he woke up with a sore throat several days after returning from a FIFA meeting in Zurich. He self-quarantined at home until he received the positive result and will remain home for the recommended 14 days.

Liga MX president Enrique Bonilla tested positive for #coronavirus last Friday. He spoke last night to @adrenalina about how he believes he contracted COVID-19, why he got tested and the conclusion of the 2020 Clausura.

Quotes in the photo below #ligamxeng pic.twitter.com/wAOXQtg6z7

— Tom Marshall (@mexicoworldcup) March 24, 2020

The Liga MX season is currently suspended, and the league has not set a date for its return. Teams will undergo a “mini-preseason” before returning to action, and each team is expected to report on the health of individual players during the suspension. In the meantime, the league is creating the “E-Liga” to support online game play between the 18 clubs in Liga MX to fill the time until play can resume.

Inter Miami changes logo to support social distancing

Inter Miami will sport a new graphic in the coming weeks as the team made a slight change to the logo to support social distancing practices. The design pushed the two birds on the team’s crest apart, creating space between them.

The team shared the new logo on social media on Monday, calling for fans to “stay home, be smart and practice social distancing.”

We miss you and we want to see you 𝘀𝗼𝗼𝗻. For that to happen we all need to stay home, be smart and practice 𝘀𝗼𝗰𝗶𝗮𝗹 𝗱𝗶𝘀𝘁𝗮𝗻𝗰𝗶𝗻𝗴.

— Inter Miami CF (@InterMiamiCF) March 23, 2020

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Life Without Soccer: News and Updates for Friday, March 20

Every day MLS, the NWSL and the USL are suspended due to the coronavirus pandemic, Pro Soccer USA will provide the latest news and updates, examples of what the soccer community is doing to pass time and some recommendations for readers to keep busy while hunkering down at home.

The Latest

In accordance with the latest guidelines from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, which recommended mass gatherings of 50 or more people be postponed for eight weeks, Major League Soccer extended the suspension of its season.

MLS, which initially suspended the season for 30 days, has a new target return date of May 10.

In a statement Thursday, the league said it is still committed to playing a full 34-game season and is examining the possibility of MLS Cup being played in December.

“MLS remains focused on playing the entire 2020 season and is evaluating all options, including pushing back the end of the season and playing MLS Cup in December, as the league did prior to the 2019 season,” the statement read. “The league is also identifying other available dates. Throughout the process, MLS will continue to prioritize the safety of our fans, players, employees and partners and to coordinate with federal and local public health authorities as well as other sporting organizations.”

The announcement comes a day after the USL Championship and League One was postponed through at least May 10.

Concacaf, which had already postponed the Champions League and the Men’s Olympic Qualifiers for 30 days, has also delayed the Concacaf Women’s Under-17 Championship from April 18 to May 3 in Toluca, Mexico.

The confederation also moved the Concacaf Futsal Championship in Guatemala from May 1 to May 10.

“Both competitions require significant international travel for a number of our member associations and their teams and we have made this decision with their welfare in mind,” Concacaf said in a statement.

New York City FC became the second MLS team to have a staff member test positive for coronavirus. A member of the club’s sporting department is feeling well after displaying mild symptoms and is observing appropriate isolation protocols, according to a club statement.

“I would like to sincerely thank all those who have offered the club medical advice and support throughout this process. As a club, we are closely following all advice and taking all possible preventative measures,” NYCFC CEO Brad Sims said. “Thankfully, I am pleased to say that the individual affected is at home and is feeling better after only a short illness.”

Because NYCFC played Tigres UANL in a Concacaf Champions League quarterfinal game at Red Bull Arena, the New York Red Bulls consulted club medical officials since some staff members worked the game.

“In consultation with club medical officials, it has been determined that our staff working the match were at low risk for exposure, given the limited interaction with NYCFC personnel and the time between the match and beginning of symptoms,” the statement read. “We will continue to monitor and take all necessary precautions.”

A 34-year-old LAFC season ticket-holder died Thursday morning after a battle with pneumonia caused by COVID-19. Jeffrey Ghazarian was a Los Angeles FC season ticket-holder,  the club confirmed Thursday.

“We are deeply saddened by the loss of LAFC Member Jeff Ghazarian,” LAFC said in a post with a photo of him at a fan event. “Our thoughts are with his family and all those affected during this difficult time.”

We are deeply saddened by the loss of LAFC Member Jeff Ghazarian.

Our thoughts are with his family and all those affected during this difficult time. #COVID19 pic.twitter.com/eWDnFxXEuO

— LAFC (@LAFC) March 20, 2020

Ghazarian reportedly developed a cough after a visit to Disney World and Universal Studios, and was hospitalized when he developed a high fever. He tested positive for COVID-19 and scans showed his lungs were as much as 70% blocked by pneumonia. Both theme parks have since temporarily shut down due to the coronavirus.

Although most soccer professionals in North America have acted responsibility, heeding warnings about mass gatherings and social distancing, not all millennials have gotten the message, apparently.

Bars and beaches during spring break in Florida remain crowded despite the worldwide pandemic. Sky Blue FC and USWNT midfielder Midge Purce, a 24-year-old Harvard graduate doesn’t understand and took to Twitter to pen what she called “a message to my generation.”

COVID19-A message to my generation:

— Margaret "Midge" Purce (@100Purcent) March 19, 2020

FC Dallas outside back Reggie Cannon was hoping for a transfer in the summer transfer window, but the 21-year-old, who has emerged as a USMNT regular, believes the coronavirus pandemic may sidetrack those plans.

“Yeah, it’s obviously a concern,” Cannon told reporters on a conference call Thursday. “Being transparent, I want to be present in my situation and give Dallas my 100 percent for however long I’m here. But the goal was to be transferred in the summer, and obviously teams are in a scramble right now because it’s a tough time for transfers at the moment. Now the most important thing is safety and health.”

Meanwhile at Colorado, Pro Soccer USA’s Marco Cummings reports Rapids coach Robin Fraser said the league’s suspension hasn’t halted a battle for the club’s No. 1 goalkeeping job between Clint Irwin and William Yarbrough, who joined the club on loan earlier this month.

“I think right now Clint has been good and solid and offers the maturity, composure and obviously good goalkeeping ability. He has been the number one to this point,” Fraser said. “I do think bringing in Will just opens up the competition.”

The Canadian MLS teams offered TSN a glimpse into what it’s been like at their clubs during the suspension of play.

In Montreal, Impact president and CEO Kevin Gilmore said its important for his club to set an example for the Impact fans.

With @MLS on hold, @impactmontreal President & CEO @kgilmore88 updates us on what's happening at the club while they wait for play to resume #IMFC pic.twitter.com/3pz6VHrZzo

— TSN Soccer (@TSNSoccer) March 19, 2020

“We know that we have an influence on people,” he said. “Fans have a passionate and emotional connection with teams and clubs and leagues and players, and if we can use that connection to send a message to stay home and follow the precautions and guidelines of the public health authorities — if we can do that — we will do our best to pass that message along.”

Toronto FC president Bill Manning said although there’s a pause in games and a training moratorium that extends through Friday, it doesn’t mean the players aren’t staying fit and as sharp as possible.

What are @TorontoFC doing to keep their players ready to play during this break? Club President Bill Manning fills us in and provides some updates on Michael Bradley and Pablo Piatti #TFCLive pic.twitter.com/KAxB8g1fB2

— TSN Soccer (@TSNSoccer) March 19, 2020

“We’re trying to stay in steady communication,” Manning said. “We set up home workout programs for all our players, we’re actually looking into having our chef prepare meals that we can deliver to our players. Every day, every other day [we send] an email just making sure they’re aware of what’s going on and anything new that’s coming from the league. And just trying to make sure the guys take every precautionary measure they can, they stay at home and are safe and doing their part to make sure that we don’t spread this.”

In Vancouver, Whitecaps sporting director Axel Schuster said the business of soccer still continues and his “phone’s not stopping” with his vast European connections.

What is happening with @WhitecapsFC during this break? Their leadership team joins @LukeWileman to provide an update #VWFC pic.twitter.com/F0gUL98mvT

— TSN Soccer (@TSNSoccer) March 19, 2020

“You have to be creative,” he said. “Now is not the time to discuss in the wrong way, everybody has to be open to give up on some things and I think that shows now. And that’s a good thing, that football is united all over the world, that anybody is open to help everybody and to find the right solutions to come back to the game at the right time and to give back the joy to the people to be in the stadium, to follow our game.”

Around Town

Austin FC co-owner Matthew McConaughey took to Twitter to offer an inspirational message about dealing with the COVID-19 crisis. And if you stick around until the end, you just might catch a quote from his classic film “Dazed and Confused.”

because every red light eventually turns green pic.twitter.com/x05GuITW4J

— Matthew McConaughey (@McConaughey) March 17, 2020

MLS clubs continue to give back to their affected communities during the league’s hiatus.

The RSL Foundation is donating food originally intended for Real Salt Lake matches, as well as $5,000, for a total of $38,300 to Utah Food Bank

“In this difficult time that everyone is facing, we wanted to take the opportunity to help those in need,” RSL foundation executive director Mary Van Minde said in a statement. “In delivering food that may have gone to waste to the Utah Food Bank, the RSL Foundation aims not only to help people affected by the pandemic, but also create awareness for a giving opportunity right here in our community.”

FC Dallas partnered with Toyota to provide meals, originally intended for upcoming matches at Toyota Stadium, for local volunteers who have been feeding needy middle school students meals since the outbreak.

“We’re proud to work with Legends Hospitality and the food and beverage team at Toyota Stadium to provide these meals to the volunteers who are tirelessly working to ensure that FISD students do not go hungry during this unprecedented time,” FC Dallas foundation manager Brooke Leverette said in a statement.

Pictures and videos of animals help provide a sense of calm during these troubled times. Yesterday, we saw San Jose Earthquakes coach Matias Almeyda with his Yorkie.

Well, how about a soccer-playing horse?

Need a football fix? Our equine premier league is kicking off! Today's practice: working on sending it and bending it 😆⚽🥉 @MenInBlazers pic.twitter.com/imaRtwqAEk

— Melissa Merrick (@M_J_Merrick) March 19, 2020

Keeping Busy

What to watch has been a big theme during the break from soccer here and across the world.

With that in mind, some New York Red Bulls players provided their Netflix and chill favorites.

With everyone at home, we asked our guys what they're streaming on @netflix?

What are you watching? // THREAD

— New York Red Bulls (@NewYorkRedBulls) March 19, 2020

“The English Game,” a new Netflix series about the birth and growth of the game worldwide from the creator of Downton Abbey, debuts Friday.

Also on Friday, FS1 is showing a replay of the 2019 Women’s World Cup final between the United States and Netherlands at 8 p.m. ET.

No spoilers.

The back-to-back champs come to FS1 on back-to-back nights 🏆🏆

Relive the action and excitement of the 2015 and 2019 FIFA Women’s World Cup finals Thursday and Friday on FS1 ⚽🇺🇸 pic.twitter.com/xn3TdZ1u9o

— FOX Sports PR (@FOXSportsPR) March 19, 2020

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Original author: Dylan Butler, Pro Soccer USA

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Amid MLS pause, Rapids starting goalkeeper competition remains in play

COMMERCE CITY, Colo. – With the Major League Soccer season at a standstill until at least May 10, Colorado Rapids coach Robin Fraser is making one main ask of his players: be ready.

“We’ve been talking and trying to maintain our fitness and I think, regardless, we will have to do things to maintain fitness,” Fraser explained to reporters via conference call on Thursday. “The first step has just been keeping guys in frame of mind where they need to stay fit.”

Nonetheless, Fraser took time to be thoughtful about the severity and uncertainty of the COVID-19 pandemic, with soccer just being one of the many facets of day to day life that the virus has impacted. Fraser has said the league’s suspension “makes perfect sense” and he has been supportive of it.

“Obviously, this whole thing is way bigger than soccer,” he said. “And we understand obviously are taking every precaution possible to be safe and keep our families safe. But at the same time, it’s a difficult time for the world. For us to look at this as something positive for us individually can be extremely short sighted.”

When players do return from the break from play however, Fraser emphasized that every position on the field will be up for grabs, including goalkeeper.

“Every job is up for grabs every week,” Fraser explained. “That type of competition is what ultimately is going to drive you.”

Clint Irwin backstopped Colorado in its two wins to open the season, but the Rapids gave up a second half goal in each fixture, meaning there could be an opening for William Yarbrough, who joined the Rapids on loan earlier this month.

The pair, both 30 years old, competed in goalkeeper drills prior to the league suspension, but nothing seemed to clearly separate the two during open practice sessions.

Conversely, Irwin is no stranger to goalkeeping competitions.

The Rapids’ incumbent starter beat out MLS Cup winner Matt Pickens and Steward Ceus to win the Rapids starting job originally in 2013.  A season later, he survived a goalkeeping carousel with Joe Nasco and John Berner before returning as the regular No. 1. In Toronto, he platooned with Alex Bono before eventually losing the starting job due to injury.

Last season, Irwin returned to Colorado, posting a record of 4-4-2 in 11 appearances (nine starts) in relief of an injured Tim Howard.

“I think right now Clint has been good and solid and offers the maturity, composure and obviously good goalkeeping ability. He has been the number one to this point,” Fraser said. “I do think bringing in Will just opens up the competition.”

Yarbrough brings an arguably more accomplished career resume, having competed with the U.S. National Team and in Liga MX, where he won titles with Leon – the club he is currently on loan from.

“I think my biggest ability is my mental toughness,” Yarbrough said during his first week of training in Colorado. “And my ability to read the game. Being able to read the game and understand what a player can do to score.”

Mental toughness is another quality which Fraser alluded to as important as each ‘keeper battles for the chance to start when play resumes.

“It’s a tough job to be a goalkeeper,” Fraser said.  “You come in and you know that if you get the opportunity and you do really well then you probably have the ability to keep it for a while. They understand that’s how it works. I think there’s no goalkeeper next level that doesn’t understand that.”

The Rapids’ starting goalkeeper could be whoever returns to training the most fit, regardless of when that actually happens. For now, the competition continues, albeit with home workouts.

“I think there’s constant competition everywhere,” said Fraser. “I think that’s real, real necessary factor. For all the years that I’ve played, and I know there’s nothing that gets that little extra bit out of you like competition.”

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Original author: Marco Cummings, Pro Soccer USA

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MLS extends suspension, eyes playing MLS Cup in December

Major League Soccer extended the temporary suspension of its season to May 10, is still committed to playing a full season and is examining the possibility of holding MLS Cup in December. 

The hiatus extension comes after the Center for Disease Control and Prevention outlined new guidelines earlier this week on limiting mass gatherings of more than 50 people to eight weeks in response to the coronavirus pandemic.

The original suspension was supposed to last until at least April 11. 

Every game that was supposed to occur before the suspension is expected to be rescheduled. MLS was in its third match week when the decision was made to halt the season. 

“In accordance with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s guidance to postpone events involving more than 50 people over the next eight weeks, Major League Soccer has extended the postponement of its matches during this period of the time,” the league said in a statement. “MLS remains focused on playing the entire 2020 season and is evaluating all options, including pushing back the end of the season and playing MLS Cup in December, as the league did prior to the 2019 season.

“The league is also identifying other available dates. Throughout the process, MLS will continue to prioritize the safety of our fans, players, employees and partners and to coordinate with federal and local public health authorities as well as other sporting organizations.”

Major League Soccer Statement on CDC Recommendation pic.twitter.com/XRXGfUEtz0

— Major League Soccer (@MLS) March 19, 2020

MLS joins other leagues around the U.S. and around the world who have decided to extend their temporary suspensions of seasons. The USL announced on Wednesday it was extended its suspension of the USL Championship and USL League One through at least May 10

In previous seasons, the MLS Cup was played in December, but it changed last season when the league moved it up to November, ahead of the FIFA window to avoid a break in the playoff schedule. 

That was the plan again this year with the start of the season moved up to the beginning of February as two new expansions clubs, Nashville SC and Inter Miami CF, joined the league. 

COVID-19, the name of the disease, has changed things dramatically for MLS, which is in its 25th season. 

MLS commissioner Don Garber released a letter Sunday urging fans to take the necessary precautions to stay safe and be patient as the league deals with the outbreak. He encouraged fans to continue to support the league during the original 30-day hiatus that was set forth by the league. 

“During this rapidly changing time, we will take every necessary precaution, and I ask you to do the same,” Garber stated in his letter. “This moment in our history transcends sport. It is a time for all of us to come together and take care of each other. Your support has always meant everything to us, but never more so than now.”

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Original author: Luis Torres, Pro Soccer USA

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