By Ben Wright, editor.
NEW YORK, NY - Major League Soccer lifted the moratorium on full team training on Thursday afternoon. The ban, implemented on March 12, was part of a response to the COVID-19 pandemic that also saw the regular season schedule put on hold. Individual clubs must contuct regular tests for the virus and detail their plans to return, to be reviewed by the club's medical staff and local health experts before being submitted to the league office for review.
Full team training will be mandatory for all players ahead of the league's tournament in Orlando. Prior individual and small-group workouts were held on a voluntary basis.
MLS detailed the full health protocols for full team training in their release. From the release, these are the protocols:
HEALTH & SAFETY PROTOCOLS:
Players must complete a physical examination, and all players and staff must complete two Polymerase Chain Reaction (PCR) tests 24 hours apart, 72 hours prior to the start of training, and undergo one baseline antibody (serology) test.
Players will be cleared to train by their medical staff only after they have successfully completed their interim physical, completed two negative PCR tests and the serology test.
Players, coaches and select staff must complete PCR tests every other day and only those with negative results will be allowed to attend training.
Serology testing will be performed once every three months.
Individual club test providers must be authorized by the FDA and Health Canada. Turnaround time for tests must be no more than 24 hours.
If a player or staff member tests positive, the individual will be isolated. The isolated individual will be tested again at least 24 hours later to ensure the result was not a false positive. All close contacts will be tested immediately. Contact tracing will be performed at the direction of the club’s COVID-19 task force and local authorities.
A player or staff member that tests positive for COVID-19 may return to training only when cleared by the club’s Chief Medical Officer in consultation with the league medical team.
Any player or staff considered to be in a high-risk category for severe illness related to COVID-19 will not be permitted to participate in team training unless cleared by the club’s Chief Medical Officer.
FACILITIES & EQUIPMENT USE:
Clubs will have the full use of their training facilities.
Entry points should remain open to avoid repeated contact with doorknobs or door exit bars.
The training room, gyms and fitness areas will be restricted to no more than five individuals at any time while maintaining physical distancing standards.
Clubs should use multiple dressing rooms and assign players to the same dressing room for each training session. Individual lockers should be spaced at least 10 feet apart.
The training room, gyms and fitness areas, as well as dressing rooms and showers must be cleaned, sanitized and disinfected following every session in accordance with MLS protocols.
All equipment and laundry must be cleaned and disinfected after each use and in accordance with MLS and EPA protocols.
Clubs must provide individual hydration bottles to players at all times. Communal water or hydration devices are strictly prohibited.
Only individual, prepackaged meals and individually wrapped utensils may be provided to players and staff. Players and staff must maintain 10 feet of physical distancing while eating.
PLAYER & STAFF SAFETY PROCESSES:
Individual club plans must include an Emergency Action Plan for all COVID-19 related issues.
Training access is restricted to essential staff only, with specific staff listed in the individual club plan.
Completion of a Standard Screening questionnaire by each player prior to every arrival at the training site, and temperature checks upon arrival at the facility.
Staggered player and staff arrivals and departures, with designated parking spaces to maintain maximum distance between vehicles.
Player use of personal protective equipment from the parking lot to his designated position on the field or gym. Players should keep their facemask on when in the training room.
Staff use of the appropriate personal protective equipment at all times, including throughout training.
Hand washing and disinfectant stations for required use before and after sessions.
According to the proposed tournament format, teams are currently scheduled to travel to Orlando the week of June 24. The consensus in Nashville and around the league has been that at least four weeks of full training are needed to get players up to full match fitness. Local health guidelines permitting, the lifted moratorium should give teams enough time to prepare.