Philadelphia Union midfielder Alejandro Bedoya has compared Major League Soccer’s reported plans to restart the season in Orlando, Florida, this summer amid the global Covid-19 pandemic to living in “luxurious prison.”
According to multiple reports, MLS is looking to stage a mini-tournament in June and July featuring all 26 current teams at the ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex.
This could include a five-game group stage followed by a knockout phase, with potentially a place in the Concacaf Champions League for the winner. There will also be “consolation games” for teams to who do not make the knockout stage to make sure all teams play the same number of matches.
The spectator-less event would require over 1,000 total participants – including players, coaches and support staff – who would live under quarantine and receive regular coronavirus health tests. It is hoped that there would be multiple games staged every day, which would be carried by MLS’s domestic broadcast partner ESPN.
Players could be away from home for eight to 10 weeks, which has led to much discomfort among participants about the plan.
“I would start off by saying that I think every one of us agree that we want to get back to playing,” Bedoya told ESPN’s Banter digital program. “I want to get back out there, being competitive, [playing] games. The staff wants to be out there, fans want to be watching games, but I will say that this all feels a little bit rushed.
“I think that we all need to be partners in this, you know, ESPN and Disney, which owns ESPN, is just partnering with MLS to help the owners out and to show games. I think the players are taking all the risks by going down [to Orlando], being isolated, it’s a strong term to say, but it’s like being in a luxurious prison,” he said.
MLS is eager to salvage its season, which was postponed after the second round of games after the onset of the coronavirus crisis. In addition, the MLS All-Star Game, Leagues Cup and Campeones Cup have been called off. There also remains much doubt as to whether the US Open Cup and Concacaf Champions League will be able to take place.
MLS league-office staff have taken pay cuts while discussions are under way for players to take wage reductions as well.
Real Salt Lake defender Nedum Onuoha also criticized the proposal, arguing that it could affect players’ mental health.
“For me personally I can talk bigger picture, but if I were to talk about how it would affect me, it’s not something that I would like to do,” Onuoha told ESPN. “Like I understand financially, it’s maybe something that would benefit the owners, benefit the league and so on, but this time here it’s really highlighted mental health and what things are like at home and so on.
“The past two months, you’ve been at home and people have still struggled. So now to suggest that the best option would be to take all these players, without their families, without their friends, without the things that are really comforts to them, and put them in a place for the purpose of entertainment or the financial side of it seems short-sighted,” he said.