Major League Soccer extends suspension of play for next 8 weeks due to COVID-19

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TORONTO — Major League Soccer has extended its season hiatus for the next eight weeks, with a target return date of May 10.

Like many leagues, the North American soccer circuit announced a 30-day suspension of play on March 12 — two weeks into the regular season — due to the COVID-19 outbreak. The league also put a moratorium on training, which it recently extended to Friday.

It went farther Thursday and extended the league-wide suspension of play, citing the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s guidance to postpone events involving more than 50 people over the next eight weeks.

“MLS remains focused on playing the entire 2020 season and is evaluating all options, including pushing back the end of the season and playing MLS Cup in December, as the league did prior to the 2019 season,” the league said in a statement.

“The league is also identifying other available dates. Throughout this process, MLS will continue to prioritize the safety of our fans, players, employees and partners and to co-ordinate with federal and local public health authorities as well as other sporting organizations.”

For Toronto FC, the May 10 possible return date would mean 10 games postponed — about a third of the 34-game schedule. The Montreal Impact and Vancouver Whitecaps both have eight games scheduled during that window.

The MLS championship game had been scheduled for Nov 7. MLS held its championship in December from 2012 to 2018, then reduced the playoffs last year by changing the earlier rounds to knockout matches from a two-leg format.

Toronto lost 3-1 to Seattle in last year’s title game on Nov. 10.

The United Soccer League, the second-tier U.S. league, said Wednesday it had extended its hiatus through May 10.

The Canadian Premier League announced Monday it was suspending pre-season training for all its clubs for 14 days “to ensure a safe environment for our teams in the wake of COVID 19.” The CPL’s second season is scheduled to kick off April 11.