It asks whether they would be willing to sign a liability waiver. The survey also offers a list of preferred precautionary measures, such as power-washing seats, wearing gloves, temperature checks, assigned entry and exit times, and altered seating arrangements to create distancing.
“We’re still exploring what it would look like,” team spokesman Zach Abaie said. “We need to gauge how the fans feel about it and what’s allowed from a local standpoint.”
A majority of those who have responded said they are eager to return to the 20,000-capacity venue and would welcome safety mandates, such as masks, one person in the organization said.
The District is in Phase 2 of loosening pandemic restrictions, which limit gatherings to 50. That number is expected to grow substantially if the city’s new case numbers and deaths tied to the virus do not increase.
MLS last week returned from a four-month shutdown caused by the pandemic, inviting all 26 teams to a tournament near Orlando. First-round matches count toward the regular season, which was suspended in March after two weekends.
While the MLS is Back Tournament transpires without spectators at the ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex, the league has formed groups to work with team executives in formulating plans to resume the season at home stadiums as early as late August.
MLS is expected to reassess the situation after July 23, coinciding with the end of group play at the Florida tournament.
“Everyone will want to come out of the tournament knowing what’s next,” one person with league ties said.
Commissioner Don Garber said last month he is “very optimistic” the season would continue beyond the Florida tournament. “I expect we will be back in our stadiums,” he said. “We just don’t know the exact date. All of our fans should expect that to happen.”
Although allowing fans to attend matches was “uncertain,” Garber added, “We are also hearing about different guidelines that have been established state by state where there’s even a possibility that some fans might be able to attend games.”
League spokesman Dan Courtemanche said Tuesday that the league’s stance remains the same.
Multiple people close to the league said MLS is aiming to schedule between 18 and 22 additional matches per team and reduce travel. An extra 20 matches would result in a 25-game season (including two early in the season and three in Florida). The regular season was to have had 34 games.
Each team, one person said, would play an equal number of additional home and away matches, regardless of where they played the first two weeks of the season. In other words, a team could finish the year with an unequal number of home and away outings (plus the three neutral-site games in Florida).
The pandemic, several people cautioned, would dictate whether the season continues and whether fans would be allowed to attend games. Depending on local health guidelines, some teams could end up allowing thousands of fans while others could have few or none.
Without many spectators, MLS would not feel the need to schedule most matches on weekends. One person familiar with the plans said the league could end up holding games several days per week.
Before the health crisis, the original schedule called for the regular season to end Oct. 4 and MLS Cup to take place Nov. 7. Revised plans would take the regular season into November and MLS Cup in mid-December.
As it plots its path, MLS is keeping a close eye on USL Championship, the second-tier men’s circuit that restarted in earnest over the weekend.
Markets varied in allowing fans. Louisville, for instance, opened its new stadium to about one-third capacity and drew 4,850. Tampa Bay invited members of its supporters’ groups only. Spectators were banned in Sacramento, Phoenix and El Paso.
Under Virginia’s Phase 3 reopening, Loudoun United, which plays at 5,000-seat Segra Field in Leesburg, is allowed 1,000 fans for its Aug. 19 home opener against Pittsburgh.
Major League Baseball will open the season next week in home markets without spectators. However, MLB is allowing individual teams to decide whether to welcome fans, provided the organization is in accordance with local regulations.
The National Women’s Soccer League is operating in a bubble without spectators in suburban Salt Lake City. The NBA (Orlando area), NHL (Toronto and Edmonton) and WNBA (Bradenton, Fla.) will do the same.
NFL teams are planning this month to announce protocols for home games, such as reduced capacities.