Speaking with Atlanta United’s sibling club Aberdeen FC on the Scottish club’s website Monday, team president Darren Eales revealed that MLS executives are willing to use any avenue possible to resume playing games this season after play was suspended due to COVID-19.
“We’re putting everything on the table,” said Eales. “Whether it’s neutral site venues, a tournament to start the season, do we extend our season, do we go into the next calendar year, play without playoffs, shorten our playoffs. For us, we can be a little more agile in what we do.“
Eales pointed to MLS’s quirky lack of a promotion and relegation system — usually something that hampers the league — as a positive in this case that allows for more flexibility
“And of course we’re a relatively young league — we don’t have relegation — so we don’t have stresses that other leagues have in terms of how to deal with that,” Eales said. “I think we’re going to be using any efforts we can to get games played. We’ll try to be as agile as we can. And we’ll brainstorm — if there’s a crazy idea out there, we’ll certainly look at it.”
Since promotion and relegation can serve as a defining financial boon or loss, teams across Europe are scrambling trying to find ways to wrap up their seasons equitably — with varying solutions. The English Premier League is attempting to reconcile the season by starting in early June and even potentially use sub 45-minute halves. Meanwhile, the Eredivisie in Holland and Ligue 1 in France have both cancelled the remainder of their seasons entirely. Atlanta and its MLS brethren, on the other hand, are aided in that they’d just gotten started, again allowing for more flexibility.
“In some respects in Major League Soccer we had an advantage because we had just started our season,” said Eales. “We’ve got a longer runway in terms of trying to work about how we get this season going.”
At least some Atlanta United players are due to return to the team’s training facility Wednesday May 6 for outdoor individual workouts. MLS’ group and team training moratorium is set to expire May 15.