Tracking the U.S.' Return to Pro Sports
Updated: Jun 11, 2020
On March 11th, the NBA suspended their season after Jazz Center, Rudy Gobert, tested positive for Covid-19. In the day following, every U.S. Professional sports leagued followed suit and suspended their season.
This outlines each league's current plan to resume play and provides the most useful details. Keep in mind, these plans are developing by the hour and constantly changing.
On June 4th, the NBA Players Union approved a plan which would resume play on July 31st. The plan includes 22 teams and would include each team playing 8 games before the playoffs begin. The vote was nearly unanimous though the Portland Trailblazers voted “no” after listening to their players’ opinions. Portland made it clear that their objection concerned the details of the plan, not the decision to resume play.
The 22 teams would be the top 8 teams in the Eastern and Western Conferences and the teams that were within 6 games of the 8th place spot. The teams would include: The Bucks, Raptors, Celtics, Heat, Pacers, 76ers, Nets, Magic in the East, The Lakers, Clippers, Nuggets, Jazz, Thunder, Rockets, Mavericks, and Grizzlies in the West, and the Pelicans, Trailblazers, Spurs, Kings, Suns, and Wizards as the teams within 6 games of 8th place.
In this proposed plan, teams will play 2-3 exhibition games before the season starts. The 8 regular season games would act as seeding games for the tournament. 5-6 games would be played per day and the season would go no later than October 12th with the draft being 3 days later on the 15th.
Playoff series will be 7 games as usual and the Finals format is expected to include games every other day. As far as testing, the season will continue even if a player tests positive. Testing will be conducted daily and players who test positive will be quarantined for a minimum of 7 days.
NHL commissioner, Gary Bettman, held a virtual press conference on May 26th discussing the league’s return to play. Bettman outlined many details about the return but did not give a specific return date. However the league and the players have agreed upon a 24-team format.
The NHL’s return is split in to phases much like the reopening of U.S. cities. On June 5th, the NHL officially entered Phase 2 which allows players to come in to team facilities for voluntary, small group, training. Phase 3 was said to start no earlier than July 1st and it would be the start of formal training camp. Phase 4, which is likely well over a month away, would include clubs traveling to two hub cities and resuming play. These hub cities have not yet been determined but some options include Chicago, Columbus, Pittsburgh, Vancouver, and Las Vegas.
The return to play will include a play-in round prior to the start of the playoffs. The Top 4 teams from each conference do not have to play in the play-in round and are automatically in the playoffs. The 8 exempt teams include: The Bruins, Lightning, Capitals, and Flyers in the East and the Blues, Avalanche, Golden Knights, and Stars in the West.
Update 6/11: The NHL will return to training camp on July 10th and can resume play in early August.
The Play-in match-ups:
(5) Pittsburgh Penguins vs. (12) Montreal Canadiens
(6) Carolina Hurricanes vs. (11) New York Rangers
(7) New York Islanders vs. (10) Florida Panthers
(8) Toronto Maple Leafs vs. (9) Columbus Blue Jackets Western Conference:
(5) Edmonton Oilers vs. (12) Chicago Blackhawks
(6) Nashville Predators vs. (11) Arizona Coyotes
(7) Vancouver Canucks vs. (10) Minnesota Wild
(8) Calgary Flames vs. (9) Winnipeg Jets
The season will go over the Summer into the Fall and the dates will be determined by “developing circumstances and needs of players” Bettman said.
The MLB was one of the first leagues to outline a possible plan to play though that has since fallen through. There are some serious tensions between the MLB players association and the league, in large part because of proposed pay cuts.
While the players have already agreed to one round of play cuts, the league wants another. As an example, under the second proposed pay cut, Angels Mike Trout would lose about 77% of the $36m he was set to be payed this season. Baseball columnist, Bob Klapsich, said “it would be a miracle to save the season” after speaking with members involved in the MLB’s negotiations.
While the league proposed an 82 game season that would start in July, the players union has not agreed to it.
If an agreement is reached, the targeted start date of July 4th could still happen. The plan to restart relies on many moving parts like the pay cut problem, the cooperation of teams and cities, and the availability of testing. As of now, the MLB season is not looking too promising.
The MLS has been the quickest sports league to move forward on resuming. On May 6th,
players were allowed to train in small groups and on June 4th, they were allowed to resume normal, full-team training.
The league requires testing every other day and those who test negative are allowed to attend training. The MLS did have some pay cut disputes similar to the MLB though they were able to move past those and agree upon a plan.
The MLS Players Association and the league were able to agree on the return to training despite their issues. The target date to resume the season is July 3rd though that could be on the early end.
When they resume, the league will play a round-robin, knockout tournament held in Orlando. Games would be held at 8:00am, 7:00pm, and 9:30 pm (central), to avoid the heat. The results of this round-robin tournament would carry over into a potential 2020 regular season. Ideally, the MLS would be able to resume the regular season as planned after the Orlando tournament and play games at home venues, without fans of course.
Update 6/10: The MLS tournament will start on July 8th and there will be 16 straight days of games. The intention is to continue the season after the end of the tournament at club's home venues. In the tournament, each game will count toward regular season standings and their is a prize pool of over $1m. Nashville SC will move to the Easter Conference for the remainder of the 2020 season.
While all leagues would resume under unparalleled circumstances and without fans, sports will be back. Each league has a much different plan to return and it will be nice to get sports back in any capacity.