Sports across the globe are on the verge of returning full force as plans for return are taking form, shaping what could be an action-packed summer and fall.
In recent weeks, players in many different sports have begun to return to training in order to get match fit after COVID-19 halted all sports for a time. The next phase for these leagues is to approve plans to return to games.
The National Basketball Association (NBA) is expected to have their plan approved on Thursday, June 4th by vote. They are looking to wrap up their nearly completed season with a few regular season games, leading up to a 22-team play in tournament, and eventually reaching the NBA Finals.
The play-in tournament would begin in late July, with finals wrapping up in October, according to the proposed calendar. The tournament would be hosted in Orlando, Florida, likely with no fans present.
The National Hockey League (NHL) has planned to host the 2020 Stanley Cup Playoffs in an altered format, with 24 teams taking part in the tournament. According to the proposal, the top four seeds from each conference will play in a round robin style bracket to determine their seeding, and the remaining 8 teams in each conference will have play-in best of five series’, leading up to the Stanley Cup final. There are ten different “Hub Cities” which may host games, when the return is finally approved.
Most Soccer leagues are slated to return sometime in June, with a few noticeable exceptions. In the Bundesliga, the soccer league in Germany, they have already executed a successful return to soccer, with teams returning on May 16th. The early return helped spotlight some of the league’s games, which normally would not have been televised in many nations across the world. On the other side of the coin, French and Dutch leagues called their seasons final after Coronavirus caused sports on a global scale to shut down. They opted for the start of new seasons in August as opposed to continuing the current seasons.
The United States’ Major League Soccer (MLS) was just two games into their season, and while they have had a few twists along the road to returning due to contract disagreements between the MLS and MLS Players Association (including a threat of a lockout), the plan to return is nearly complete. According to this plan, all 24 teams will travel to Orlando to play a group stage against three other teams, followed by knockout rounds of tournaments. The tournament is believed to begin June 24th or shortly after, and will last six weeks.
While most sports leagues have smoothly guided through the planning phase of how they would like to return, Major League Baseball (MLB) has struggled to come to any sort of agreement between the league and players.
An initial proposal contained a schedule with 82 games, salary reductions for players, with a 50/50 revenue split between teams and players. However, it is believed the players association and league were very far from a deal after the league’s initial proposal. The players were looking for a season closer to 114-games, with salaries paid at a prorated rate. The main point of disagreement between the MLB and MLBPA regards whether a return will be profitable or not. Players believe the league should schedule a larger amount of games, which would lead to a higher percentage of their contracts being paid, as well as more profits, in their eyes, while the league hopes to schedule as few as possible, to mitigate losses. The negotiations have been messy, with star players such as Bryce Harper and Blake Snell staying they would not play for reduced salaries.
Meanwhile, the National Football League (NFL) has remained business as usual, for the most part. Their draft was held during its scheduled time, though virtually. Preseason camps may be limited or postponed, but the season is still poised for a September 10th start.
NASCAR has also made a successful early return to the track, with a large boost in viewership of races compared to previous years coinciding with the return.
If every sports league’s return continues as planned, fans will be in for a summer and fall filled with meaningful games.