Last weekend, for the first time in nearly two months, American sports fans witnessed a live sporting event in the U.S. with UFC 249 taking place in Jacksonville without fans.
And this weekend, there will be more live sports on TV than any time in the past two months, as sporting leagues around the world make their measured return to the playing field.
On Saturday, the Bundesliga – the top soccer league in Germany – made its return after being suspended since March 11, becoming the first major European soccer league to return.
The five matches that kicked off league play gave a glimpse into what the MLS, or any top associations, could look like when action commences.
There were no fans in the stands, and anyone attending the game, such as media members, had to have their temperatures checked. Players arrived on numerous buses so social distancing could be practiced and wore masks entering the stadium.
The changes also extended to players during the game. Substitutes sat six feet apart from each other on the bench, and when they entered the game, they bumped elbows with their predecessors.
The games certainly did not feel like what we are used to, but the Bundesliga on Saturday taught us how sports could look like for the foreseeable future.
However, major sports leagues aren’t just returning on the other side of the Atlantic, they are returning right here at home.
On Sunday, NASCAR will be returning from Darlington, South Carolina, at the Real Heroes 400. The engines will be started at 3:30 on Fox. Just like with the Bundesliga, fans will not be allowed, and attendance will be limited to only those required individuals – track, series and team personnel plus a small group of media.
Over the next month, NASCAR will hold cup series races all throughout the south in locales like Charlotte, Bristol, Miami and Talladega.
The early return could be a major opportunity for NASCAR, which has seen its ratings drop in the past few years.
Slight progress was made from the big four leagues this past week. NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell announced Friday that team facilities in some locations can reopen on Tuesday after being closed for nearly two months.
Goodell said in a league-wide memo that facilities can reopen under state regulations. Despite the news, the memo stated that no more than 75 team employees are allowed in the facility at one time. No coaches are allowed, and only players in need of medical treatment or rehab are welcome.
MLB owners approved a plan on Monday to start the season on July 4 weekend with an 82-game schedule, instead of the traditional 162 games. According to the plan, teams will play in their home parks (without fans) and Spring Training would start in June. Teams would only play their division opponents and clubs in their region for interleague play. Come playoff time, 14 teams would have a chance to make the Fall Classic instead of 10.
The plan, however, has been criticized by players, so it may have a long road ahead before it can become official.
The return of the NBA continues to be unknown. After a video conference on Tuesday with Commissioner Adam Silver, NBA owners felt optimistic about a return to the court, but there continues to be opposing concerns that could derail the league’s hope.
The association does have the backing of its main stars who said on a conference call Monday that games should tip off again if it is safe to do so.
Finally, a return for the MLS seems hopeful after Gov. Ron DeSantis said Wednesday that Florida is open to leagues looking to restart their seasons.
The governor’s announcement came after the soccer league unveiled its Orlando plan, which would involve all 26 teams being sheltered in a resort and games being played at ESPN’s Wide World of Sports Complex at Disney World.
Under the plan, players can begin to train on June 1 with training groups increasing throughout the month before matches begin on the pitch in early July.
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