The teams would train and play primarily at the ESPN Wide World of Sports, which spans 220 acres as part of Disney’s massive footprint in central Florida. ESPN, owned by Disney, is one of MLS’s broadcast partners.
MLS and MLS Players Association spokespersons said they did not want to comment. The Walt Disney Co. did not respond to a message requesting comment.
The league is expected to accelerate its plans over the next two weeks and set the framework for resuming a season which, due to the new coronavirus pandemic, has been closed after two weekends.
In jurisdictions where such activities are permitted, several teams have started voluntary individual training. The league has postponed all matches until at least June 8, although the realistic schedule extends deeper in the summer.
MLS hopes to soon allow players to start training as a small group in local markets, a step the Bundesliga took last month before scaling up operations. The German elite circuit, with the country’s second division, will resume this weekend with games played without spectators.
Other European football leagues are also planning to resume their seasons in the coming weeks.
As part of its Orlando plan, MLS would host teams for training and several games a day, which ESPN platforms would take away. It is unclear whether the other televised partners in the league, Fox Sports and Univision, will broadcast games.
Without spectators in the stadium, MLS is looking for opportunities to connect with fans through behind-the-scenes packages and interactive engagement on ESPN and the league’s digital platform.
Florida reopened partially non-essential businesses last week, though sports sites, including ESPN Wide World of Sports, remain closed.
Players should be tested regularly – provided that tests are even available in large quantities – and undergo regular medical assessments.
They would not be allowed to bring their families, said two people familiar with the plans. For those with children, this would place a long-term burden on the wives and, in general, would strain relationships.
The league should also consider the health and safety of hotel and stadium employees, bus drivers, security and television crews and accredited media. Presumably, MLS would have an emergency plan in place in case someone was positive.
“The most important thing is to make sure that they are safe in any environment that we are able to develop to have them resume training first and then obviously come back to play games, “Garber told Yahoo! Finances last week.
At one point, the league plans to send home teams to spectator-less games, although varying degrees of state restrictions may prevent some of them from hosting matches in the foreseeable future.
The idea of Orlando is one of several options being explored by MLS, which like other professional sports leagues is exploring ways to play without endangering players and employees.
MLS proposals include selecting two or more geographic locations to host training sessions and matches this summer. The league has also prepared to play no games before September at the earliest.
MLS has some flexibility in scheduling. The regular season is expected to end in early October and the playoffs a month later. In the past, the playoffs ended the second week of December.
League officials have said they would consider playing a truncated calendar in winter and hosting the MLS Cup at a predetermined site in warm weather in early 2021.
The programming plans come as the MLS and MLSPA continue to negotiate pay cuts for players. The league, which is heavily dependent on match day revenues, sent its latest proposal to the union last week.