MLS delays debuts of three teams; NFL stars at odds with league over virus
Major League Soccer has taken the decision to delay the entry of three expansion teams by a year because of the fallout from the coronavirus pandemic.
The Charlotte franchise, which was due to join in 2021, will now have to wait until 2022, while the St. Louis club and Sacramento Republic FC have had their elevation put back a year to 2023.
However, new MLS team Austin FC will make its debut next year as scheduled.
In a statement, MLS commissioner Don Garber (pictured) said the delays would help the clubs “make up for what has been a challenging 2020” as a result of the pandemic.
He added: “We have always taken a thoughtful and strategic approach to our expansion planning and have delivered successful launches for every new club.
“It is important for each club to take the necessary time to launch their inaugural MLS seasons the way their fans and communities deserve. With the extra year to make up for what has been a challenging 2020, these teams will be well-positioned for their debuts and for long-term success."
The Charlotte team has been impacted by delays related to renovations to Bank of America Stadium, also home to the NFL’s Carolina Panthers, while the St. Louis and Sacramento outfits have welcomed the extra time for the construction of their new stadiums.
The 2020 MLS season was suspended, after just a few rounds, in March, and only resumed this month, with a special MLS is Back Tournament, behind closed doors in Orlando, Florida.
Other major leagues such as the NBA and NHL are set to resume, at similar bubble sites, shortly, and the MLB season makes a delayed start this Thursday.
However, the Toronto Blue Jays, the only MLB team in Canada, are having to find a new temporary home after the country’s government vetoed the plan to play at their Rogers Centre home.
Possible alternatives include the Blue Jays' spring training ballpark in Dunedin in Florida or the home of the Buffalo Bisons, a Triple-A affiliate team in New York.
Meanwhile, the NFL has announced that training camps will open in time this week, ahead of the start of the season on 10 September.
However, several high-profile players have raised concerns over a lack of agreed health and safety protocols in the face of Covid-19.
Negotiations between the NFL and the NFL Players Association are continuing over issues such as the regularity of testing and any preseason games.
Top stars that have spoken out include quarterbacks Drew Brees, Russell Wilson and Patrick Mahomes.
Brees wrote on Twitter: “We need Football! We need sports! We need hope! The NFL’s unwillingness to follow the recommendations of their own medical experts will prevent that. If the NFL doesn’t do their part to keep players healthy there is no football in 2020. It’s that simple. Get it done @NFL.”