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FC Dallas, Nashville SC to restart MLS season in front of limited fans

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Major League Soccer’s FC Dallas will allow a limited number of fans to attend their regular-season game against Nashville SC at Toyota Stadium on August 12, a match which will herald the return of the league in home markets.

A maximum of 5,110 fans will be able to attend the game, filling about 25 per cent of the 20,500 seats in the team’s venue in Frisco, Texas.

The decision to allow fans has been made despite the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic in the state and the fact that both Nashville SC and FC Dallas were forced out of the MLS Is Back Tournament in Orlando, Florida, due to coronavirus outbreaks in their traveling parties.

A 1,438-word legal waiver to enter the stadium requires spectators to agree not to sue if they are exposed to the coronavirus. Fans must wear masks and follow a series of health and safety guidelines.

“We polled our fans and more than half of [900] said that they would feel comfortable attending magic Toyota Stadium,” Gina Miller, the team’s vice president of media and communications, said. “They indicated that what they missed more than anything was that sense of community, that camaraderie, that soccer experience.”

MLS commissioner Don Garber is also keen for fans to return to games, where possible, for the remainder of the 2020 season, despite the risks involved.

“Playing matches with fans in local markets is a step toward some sense of what the new normal in sports is going to be. We have to start; we have got to give it a try,” Garber recently said.

Both Major League Baseball and the United Soccer League Championship have been forced to postpone multiple games, having resumed their seasons in home markets, highlighting the risks of the initiative. Meanwhile, USL team New Mexico United is currently not allowed to play games in its home state due to local restrictions.

“We understand that getting back to play is going to have some challenges. We’re aware of those challenges, we’re prepared for it, we are understanding that it’s not going to be easy,” Garber added. “We know that we might have issues that are going to disrupt us and might even force us to postpone games. We’re aware of the need to be flexible, we’re aware that we are entering a new normal for our industry.”

FC Dallas will host Nashville SC for a second game on August 16, also in front of limited fans.