HomeNewsFinance & MoneyFootballUSA

MLS could lose billions over Covid-19, says Sounders owner

Seattle Sounders celebrate winning the 2019 MLS Cup final (Credit: Getty Images)

Major League Soccer teams could potentially lose billions of dollars as a result of the sports competition shutdown caused by the Covid-19 pandemic, according to Seattle Sounders majority owner Adrian Hanauer.

MLS is expected to imminently announce that the 2020 season will be postponed until at least June 8 due to the ongoing health crisis, though the hiatus is likely to be far longer. The extended shutdown could hit the league hard, says Hanauer.

“The losses at the team level in MLS will be astronomical. Hundreds of millions, billions, really big numbers,” Hanauer told the Sounder At Heart podcast.

At the Sounders, senior staff members and the coaching staff have taken voluntary pay cuts, while there are no plans at present at the club to furlough or lay off employees. There have also been pay cuts at the MLS head office in New York, as well as other clubs such as Real Salt Lake.

Hanauer believes that MLS’s single-entity structure will help the league navigate the effects of the coronavirus crisis.

“I’m really glad that I’m part of Major League Soccer,” he added. “The ownership is rock solid. There’s been lots of criticism of single entity structure — no promotion-relegation, salary cap — heard over the years. But some of those principles are what will allow this league to survive and thrive coming out the other end.”

MLS commissioner Don Garber, meanwhile, has said league executives are discussing alternative formats to completing a season, with a full campaign unlikely. In the absence of competition, MLS is teaming up with domestic broadcast partner Fox Sports to create a new esports competition featuring MLS and eMLS professionals.

Elsewhere, the United States Soccer Federation has announced it is closing down its youth development academy due to the financial impact of the coronavirus, effective immediately.

The academy, which started in 2007, helped develop boys and girls players from the under-13 level up to under-19s. US national men’s players such as Christian Pulisic, Josh Sargent, DeAndre Yedlin, Gyasi Zardes and Aaron Long participated in the program.

MLS has immediately stepped in to help fill the void by launching a new youth competition to provide year-round high-level matches for MLS club academies teams and possibly other youth development clubs.

It is for boys only, however. “MLS is evaluating the potential to provide future competition opportunities for girls,” according to a league press release.

According to multiple reports, US Soccer has also laid off some staff as a result of the closure of the Development Academy, as well as other financial issues. The employees include chief administration officer Brian Remedi, and chief talent and inclusion officer Tonya Wallach.