MLS approves small-group training sessions under Covid-19 guidelines

The MLS has approved small-group training for its teams while maintaining strict health protocols and guidelines due to the Covid-19 pandemic ((credit: Minnesota United))

We don’t know when Major League Soccer will get back on the pitch, but the league appears to have taken one step forward this week.

MLS officials announced Thursday they have approved for teams to hold small-group training sessions at outdoor team facilities while complying to strict Coronavirus pandemic guidelines. The MLS suspended its season in mid-March due to Covid-19 concerns, and at the time, Minnesota United had gotten off to a 2-0 start and was preparing for a four-game home stand at Allianz Field.

The Loons started voluntary, individual training for players about two weeks ago at their practice facility at the National Sports Center in Blaine. Players focused on individual drills, were socially distanced on their own field and had their temperatures taken daily before hitting the practice field.

Here are the new guidelines from the MLS for small-group voluntary sessions. A Minnesota United spokesperson said Thursday the Loons are waiting for the MLS to approve their training plan. Small-group sessions for Minnesota United could start as early as Friday, but more likely on Monday.

  • Clubs may divide each full field into a maximum of two equal halves and may assign a group of players to each full or half field. 
  • Clubs may clearly define up to six zones per half field, spaced at least 10 feet apart. Only one player may be in a zone at any given time in order to maintain physical distancing standards throughout the session. For clarity, a maximum of six players may be assigned to a single group with each player accommodated in a separate zone.
  • During training sessions, players may switch zones within their own group only if another player is not currently in that zone and players must maintain a physical distance of at least 10 feet from all other players and coaches while moving between zones.
  • Within a single group, players may pass the ball and shoot on goal; however, all training exercises must allow players to maintain a physical distance of at least 10 feet from one another.
  • Players may only train with the other players within their own group and may not interact with other groups. While the groups may not be rearranged during a single training session, clubs may rearrange the combination of players in each group from session to session.
  • Coaches and technical staff must wear a face mask at all times and may direct players from the perimeter of the field, never entering the field, while maintaining at least 10-feet of distance from other staff and players.
  • Only approved equipment may be used during training session including balls; small and regular goals; rubber dots; small discs and cones; rebounders; rings; GPS Pods and personal equipment that is not shared between players. Mannequins, poles, bands, weights and ball machines may not be used.
  • Goalkeepers may not spit on their gloves and must clean, disinfect and sanitize their gloves after each training.

Players and team officials must continue to comply with all Covid-19 guidelines established before the start of voluntary individual workouts.

The MLS has a league-wide moratorium on full-team training that remains in place through at least June 1.