MLS Teams Return to Training
- After the league-wide moratorium on the season was lifted, some teams have returned to training.
- This is coming off of the back of many players boycotting training due to disagreements between the league and players association.
- The MLS was suspended on March 12 in response to the coronavirus pandemic.
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As major sports leagues across the United States have announced their plans to return to play, the MLS seemed to be dragging behind on the matter.
It wasn’t until June 3rd that the MLS and the MLS Players Association finally came to an agreement on a new collective bargaining agreement.
The new CBA outlines a number of changes, most notably its extension until 2025.
The new agreement also outlines a return to play for the 2020 season via a tournament hosted in Orlando, Florida.
Players Are Still Questioning Safety
A look at one of Orlando City’s first small group training sessions as players return to the pitch following the approval of the new MLS CBA. pic.twitter.com/k7VJ3E5VOn
— Julia Poe (@jpoe24601) June 4, 2020
While the MLS And the MLSPA voted on the new CBA, there are still a number of teams that have not returned to training due to the initial labour impasse.
Training sessions remain voluntary, with only a small number of teams taking advantage of small group and individual sessions.
Minnesota United midfielder Ethan Finlay was critical of the media’s portrayal of players as refusing to attend training.
“Players made a choice to focus their time and energy on an important decision which includes the threat of a lockout instead of volunteering to attend on-field training for a tournament we already agreed to attend. Refuse is not a word I’d use.”
On June 1 there were three clubs whose players outright boycotted training. Those teams being Toronto FC, Montreal Impact, and Vancouver Whitecaps.
It is worth noting that all three of those clubs are Canadian outfits. Whereas most of the MLS consists of American players in American markets, these Canadian clubs must undergo stricter quarantine policies for players that left their domestic market and country and must return to training after crossing the border.
Teams Back to Full Training
With the moratorium lifted and a new focus on a tournament-style return to the MLS season, there are a few teams who have the benefit of their players being available to return to full training. The following three teams are back:
Atlanta United [2-0-0, 1st in Eastern Conference]
All hail MLS’ new goal-scoring king! Josef Martinez nets No. 28 of the season! pic.twitter.com/XLgXCRLbSN
— ESPN FC (@ESPNFC) August 25, 2018
Atlanta United returned to training on June 8 after the MLSPA and MLS came to their CBA agreement. In cooperation with local health and safety recommendations, the reigning US Open Cup Champions found their way back to the pitch.
Atlanta were dealt a harsh blow to open the season, as star forward Josef Martinez suffered a season-ending ACL tear. Despite that they are still considered to be one of the best teams in the league and a favourite to lift the MLS Cup this season.
Key Players: Ezequiel Barco, Pity Martinez, JJ Williams
New England Revolution [0-1-1, 8th in Eastern Conference]
— Area Sports Network (@AreaSportsNet) June 8, 2020
New England Revolution have also been approved to return to full training after receiving approval from local and state-wide health officials. The club is under the care of divisive manager Bruce Arena, who succeeds US Soccer legend Brad Friedel.
The Revs failed to make an impact in their first two matches of the season, earning only a draw and a loss. They’ve given up three goals between Montreal Impact and Chicago Fire FC.
Key Players: Matt Turner, Adam Buksa, Carles Gil
Sporting Kansas City [2-0-0, 1st in Western Conference]
— BBC Sport (@BBCSport) February 14, 2020
Sporting KC resumed full training on June 7, 2020. Sporting KC players were welcomed back to the Compass Minerals National Performance Center on May 6 for individual workouts and small group workouts.
The club is coming off of one of its most disappointing seasons ever, as they failed to qualify for the MLS Cup Playoffs for the first time since 2010. They opened this season with back-to-back impressive wins over Vancouver Whitecaps and Houston Dynamo.
Key Players: Winston Reid, Erik Hurtado, Gadi Kinda.