When Will Our Sports Come Back? COVID-19 Updates

MLB – July 23rd

After a lengthy battle between the MLB and the MLBPA, a threat from Rob Manfred to mandate the season, and a general feeling of helplessness, baseball is finally back.

The league will play a 60-game regular season, where teams will be playing in their home stadiums. To mitigate travel, divisions have been expanded to “geographic divisions”. For example, the New York Yankees will be playing 40 games versus the normal AL East, but will also play 20 inter-league games with the NL East. In a historic move, the MLB has also adopted a mandatory designated hitter for both leagues. In other rule changes, the MLB is also implementing a once prominent idea of starting extra-innings with a runner on second base, to shorten games.

Teams are expected to start a summer-time “Spring” Training on July 4th, where they will be allowed to carry up to sixty players. On July 23rd, the season will start and rosters will compress to 30-players maximum. (In 2020, the league was supposed to expand rosters from the traditional 25-man to 26.) It is currently unclear on how the playoffs will be formatted, but the league is not ruling out an expanded field.

The league will end its moratorium on player transactions on July 1st. 2020 also marked the MLB ending it’s August 31st “waiver-deadline”, where players could be traded after the July 31st deadline if they passed through trade waivers. This season, August 31st will serve as the end-all trade deadline.

Another interesting development is that the MLB is currently in talks with the leadership of Nashville, Tennessee to set up two teams for unsigned players to start a showcase-camp. This is likely to serve instead of non-roster invites to individual team’s Spring Training Camps. Nashville does not currently house an MLB team, but it is home to one of the country’s best baseball programs, at Vanderbilt University.

NBA – July 30th

The NBA is officially back! Sort of..

The NBA has announced that it will resume the 2019-2020 season on July 31st, with all remaining games being played in Orlando. However, not all teams will be invited to participate in the closing of the season. All teams within 6 games of eighth place are invited to play in Orlando. This includes, Portland, New Orleans, Sacramento, San Antonio, and Phoenix, in the west and Washington, in the east.

In order to recoup some projected lost revenue, the league made a concerned effort to have each team play 8 more regular season games. The goal of this is both to give teams and players a “feel-out” period before starting the playoffs, as well as hitting important local TV contract milestones.

It is assumed that the league has taken a 40% revenue hit in 2019-2020. The players have already taken 25% salary cuts and the league salary cap is expected to be negatively affected in upcoming seasons. Interestingly, if the 9th seed in a conference ends up within four games of the eighth seed, a “play-in” tournament will be required to solidify a playoff spot. The exact details of the tournament are unknown, but it all feels like a deliberate plot to get either Zion Williamson and the Pelicans or Damian Lillard and the Blazers into the playoffs.

The tentative dates are as follows:
July 31 – Regular-season resumes
August 16-17 – Potential play-in tournament
August 18 – Beginning of Playoffs (Round 1)
September 1 – Round 2
September 15 – Conference Semi-finals
September 30 – NBA Finals
October 15 – NBA Draft
October 18 – Free Agency
December 1 – Opening Night 2020-2021

A key indicator for these dates will be June 22nd. On this date the league will start a massive testing protocol. Everyone inside the “NBA bubble” (players, staff, families) will be required to test for the virus, before training camps open on June 30th and teams head own to Orlando (after July 4th).

NHL – Mid/Late July

The NHL has confirmed, as of Tuesday, May 26th, that it will be moving forward with its 24-team playoff format. The top four teams in the Eastern Conference (Boston, Tampa Bay, Washington, Philadelphia) and the top four teams in the West (St. Louis, Colorado, Las Vegas, Dallas) will play in round-robin tournaments that will determine first round seeding. The other 16 teams will be completing in best-of-five series based on seeding in their respective conferences. The matchups are as follows:

(5) Penguins vs. (12) Canadiens
(6) Hurricanes vs. (11) Rangers
(7) Islanders vs. (10) Panthers
(8) Maple Leafs vs. (9) Blue Jackets
(5) Oilers vs. (12) Blackhawks
(6) Predators vs (11) Coyotes
(7) Canucks vs. (10) Wild
(8) Flames vs (9) Jets

By mid-June, the NHL is expected to move to “Phase 2” of their return-to-play plan, which will include opening up practice facilities and recalling players back to their markets.

By July 1st, the NHL is hoping to reach “Phase 3”, which will open a formal training camp for players.

The NHL hopes to begin “Phase 4” by mid-July, which will kick off the tournament-style playoffs. As of now, these games will all be played in two hub-cities that are still being determined.

NFL – September 10th (no change)

As of now the NFL is fully expected to go on with their season as planned. The 2020 NFL draft took place from April 23-25, remotely. Teams and players have expressed concerns about having access to full training camps and the viability of completing OTA’s.

The NFL has also discussed playing some games on Saturday’s should the NCAA season face postponement. The NFL has also stated that their games will comply with social-distancing legislation and will not take place in front of fans for the time being.

Soccer – Multiple leagues detailed

Bundesliga (Germany) Bundesliga is back in action as of May 16th. With the season already 75% completed at the time of suspension, the Bundesliga is expected to complete its remaining eight match days by the end of June. There will be no crowds for these games.

Premier League (UK) – The EPL has allowed clubs to resume training, with an expected start date of June 19th. It has also stated that fans may not be in attendance for an entire year. On June 24th, Liverpool clinched the Premier League Championship for the first time since 1990.

La Liga (Spain) – Spain’s top league has allowed its teams to resume player training in smaller groups as of May 18th. The official resume date has been announced as June 11th.

MLS (USA) – The MLS will return for a “cup-style” playoff tournament. It will take place in Orlando and run from July 8th to August 11th.

Serie A (Italy) – Italian clubs have the green light to return training as of May 18th, 2020. Players coming from abroad must undergo a mandatory two-week quarantine before returning to play. The league will be resuming play of June 20th.

Ligue 1 (France) Ligue 1 made a hasty decision to cancel the rest of the 2019/2020 season, especially given the success of the return of all other major European soccer leagues. Ligue 1 has announced hat it will begin its 2020/2021 season on August 23rd. The decision can’t be entirely balmed on the league, as the French government banned all sporting events until August.

When Will Our Sports Come Back? COVID-19 Updates
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