Sports continue to make their way back to the United States with Major League Baseball finally kicking off its 2020 season on July 23.
The National Women’s Soccer League and Major League Soccer have begun to wind down their competitions while other leagues are on the verge of returning to competitive action. With leagues returning to play, several athletes have tested positive for COVID-19 both inside and outside league “bubbles,” forcing them to take time off from their seasons and training.
Here’s what the American professional sports landscape looks like:
Major League Baseball made its return on July 23 with the defending champion Washington Nationals losing 4-1 to the New York Yankees in the first game of 2020. Several players’ 2020 season have been delayed due to positive COVID-19 results. As reported by ESPN’s Jeff Passan, the Nationals removed outfielder Juan Soto from its opening day roster after a positive test result on Thursday.
Following the 60-game regular season, the MLB will conduct an expanded playoffs for the 2020 season, according to ESPN. The division winners and all second-place teams in each division will qualify for the postseason. The two remaining teams with the highest record will complete the 16-team playoff field.
The NFL has begun to make plans for the upcoming season. According to USA Today, the league and players union agreed to eliminate the 2020 preseason instead of the original plan to play two games. Training camp sizes have also been reduced before the upcoming season.
Teams across the league have planned for a reduced number of fans in the stands. The Atlanta Falcons are preparing for between 10,000 and 20,000 spectators with a requirement for face coverings inside the stadium.
The WNBA season starts July 25 with the Seattle Storm and New York Liberty tipping off the first game of the 2020 season. When teams arrived in Bradenton, Florida, on July 6, two players tested positive for COVID-19. No one has tested positive since.
The NBA is less than a week away from resuming its 2020 season on July 30. Teams currently competing in Orlando, Florida, began scrimmage games on July 22. Players returned to team training facilities in late June, and since then, several players have tested positive for COVID-19, including Russell Westbrook of the Houston Rockets and Nikola Jokic of the Denver Nuggets.
The National Women’s Soccer League is nearing the end of its 2020 Challenge Cup taking place in Utah. The competition will end July 26 with the Chicago Red Stars and Houston Dash playing in the championship match. Following the Challenge Cup, the league is discussing further 2020 competition.
Sounds like more NWSL games in 2020 are in play, but what that exact format is going to look like is still TBD. NWSL board met today. For full context and options being explored, see last night's report about the various forces at play here 👇 https://t.co/B8voQ2kPar— Jeff Kassouf (@JeffKassouf) July 22, 2020
Following the departure of FC Dallas and Nashville SC, Major League Soccer has reported no new COVID-19 cases in the league since July 16. Coronavirus case updates are provided by the league every two days. MLS is continuing the “MLS is Back” tournament in Orlando, Florida. The group stage of the competition ended July 23 and now 16 teams begin a single elimination knockout round ending with the final on Aug. 11.
MLS has not ruled out the possibility of playing games after the tournament in front of stadiums with limited fans. Atlanta United emailed season ticket holders to say the team intends to open Mercedes Benz Stadium for 10,000-20,000 fans in attendance if there are games later this season with face coverings required.
The NHL returns with the New York Rangers and Carolina Hurricanes on Aug. 1 as the first game since the pause. Teams began training camp on July 13 and will play exhibition games before the Stanley Cup qualifiers. The league announced two positive tests from the first five days of training camp over July 13-17.
NHL statement on COVID-19 testing results: pic.twitter.com/C137laTvbH— NHL Public Relations (@PR_NHL) July 20, 2020