After four months on hiatus due to coronavirus, Major League Soccer returns to the playing field tonight when Inter Miami and Orlando City take to the pitch. Orlando and Miami will play their first of three games in what many see as a World Cup-style group stage at ESPN's Wide World of Sports complex in Orlando.
While many are excited to see MLS return, others are worried about the restart coinciding with the skyrocketing of COVID-19 cases in Florida. Does it make sense to shut down a league when cases in Florida were around 1,000 a day but restart games as they hit 11,000?
Probably not! Luckily, soccer is a hella social-distancing sport, more so than any others that are planning to resume. Here are a few reasons why soccer might be the perfect sport to play amid the coronavirus outbreak.
Soccer is played on the largest field in professional sports. When it comes to social distancing, soccer fields have everything you're looking for. An MLS pitch is 110 yards long and 70 yards wide. That's the largest playing surface any American professional sports league plays on.
No sport can pull off keeping players six feet away from each other. It just won't happen. But soccer is the sport that is best equipped for pulling it off in theory.
Soccer keeps it moving. One of the most beautiful things about watching a soccer game is the clock stops for nobody. Not for commercials, not for a bloodied face, nothing. That means the games move along quickly without timeouts, team huddles, or opportunities to rub germs on each other.
Plus, there are only a couple of guys on the bench. Everything about this game lends itself well to staying away from anyone who doesn't have the ball.
The only guy who touches the ball wears gloves. Soccer, by rule, is a sport where touching the ball is prohibited. Doing it even once could cost you the game. Players avoid doing so with great effort. The only man required to touch the ball, the keeper, is already wearing massive, construction-worker-like gloves — how convenient!
In baseball, guys will be constantly spitting and passing around a ball. Soccer was clearly designed with a pandemic in mind.
Soccer is played outdoors. Unlike NBA games, MLS matches are played on a massive outdoor field, not inside a gym where droplets are recycled by an air-conditioning system. Does this matter? The people who know if it should matter say it matters. That's why you're cool not wearing a mask on a jog outside but have to wear a mask at Publix.
Playing outdoors matters. Soccer has that going for it.
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Nobody likes to be touched while playing soccer. Soccer is notorious for flops. If someone even comes close to making contact with a player, he usually takes a dive in hopes of drawing a free kick. In the days of coronavirus, this is excellent behavior.
If anyone comes too close to you in Publix, you can't fall on the floor and stop everything. Tonight, when Miami plays Orlando, getting too close — or worse, touching someone — will stop everything. Because soccer.
Soccer was made for social distancing. It's the perfect game to restart the sports world.