Major League Baseball Season To Start In July, Says Commissioner

Major League Baseball
File photo Major League Baseball

 

 

The 2020 Major League Baseball season is set to start in July, commissioner Rob Manfred said Tuesday, after players signed off on health protocols and agreed to report to training.

The announcement that the season will begin July 23 or 24 comes after weeks of wrangling between owners and players over a framework for a season shortened by the coronavirus pandemic.

“Major League Baseball is thrilled to announce that the 2020 season is on the horizon,” Manfred said in a statement.

“We have provided the Players Association with a schedule to play 60 games and are excited to provide our great fans with baseball again soon.”

Manfred’s comments came after the Major League Baseball Players Association said its members would report to training camps on July 1.

“All remaining issues have been resolved and players are reporting to training camps,” the union said.

MLB and the MLBPA had been at loggerheads over how to salvage a season that should have begun on March 26.

The league proposed a succession of deals that would have seen the players receive only a percentage of their salaries, prorated by number of games played.

Players pushed back against the league proposals, noting that they had already agreed to a pay cut in March and should not be required to accept a further reduction in salary.

The MLBPA had wanted a longer regular season, but when the union rejected the most recent MLB proposal owners voted on Monday to impose a 60-game schedule — which would still be contingent on reaching agreement with players on health and safety protocols.

MLB said in a statement posted on MLB.com that the players had accepted the protocols.

When the season gets underway teams will play in their home ballparks without fans, baseball opting against the kind of “bubble” environment that will see the NBA return to action with all teams playing at a single location at a sports complex at Disney World in Florida.

To decrease travel, each team will play the majority of its games against its four division rivals, and remaining games against the clubs in the corresponding geographical division in the other league.

Under format, players will receive the full prorated share of their salaries.

Multiple media outlets reported that as usual 10 teams will qualify for the playoffs.

 

US Major League Soccer Set To Return In July

(FILES) In this file photo taken on March 7, 2020 a detailed view of a MLS soccer ball at Audi Field in Washington, DC. Patrick Smith / GETTY IMAGES NORTH AMERICA / AFP

 

Major League Soccer will return from its coronavirus shutdown with a 26-team tournament behind closed doors starting July 8 at Disney World in Florida, the league announced Wednesday.

The “MLS Is Back” tournament, which runs until August 11, will feature group-stage matches that will count in the league’s regular season, which was halted after two weeks due to the deadly virus outbreak in March.

The event will be staged at ESPN’s Wide World of Sports complex at Walt Disney World in Orlando and feature extensive medical protocols for players, including COVID-19 tests on the day before each match.

READ ALSO: La Liga Restarts With Seville Derby Behind Closed Doors

“We are pleased to team up with Disney to relaunch the 2020 MLS season and get back to playing soccer,” MLS commissioner Don Garber said.

“The opportunity to have all 26 clubs in a controlled environment enables us to help protect the health of our players, coaches and staff as we return to play.”

Teams will begin arriving in Orlando on June 24 for pre-season workouts, with clubs able to arrive no later than seven days before their opening match.

The World Cup-style format will see a continuous schedule of matches almost every day with games kicking off at 9:00 am, 8:00 pm and 10:30 pm.

The winner will claim the berth in the 2021 CONCACAF Champions League typically reserved for the regular-season conference leader with the second-most points.

Five substitutes will be allowed per match, following in the footsteps of the German Bundesliga.

The league, which will move newcomer Nashville to the Eastern Conference for scheduling purposes, will be divided into six groups on Thursday.

The East will have one six-team group, with host Orlando City as its top seed, and two four-team groups, while the West has three four-team groups.

Other top seeds will be Atlanta United, Los Angeles FC, Toronto FC and Seattle Sounders plus Real Salt Lake.

The two top clubs from each group plus the four-best third-place sides advance to the round of 16. The championship match is set for August 11.

Drawn knockout matches will go directly to a penalty shootout.

– Regular testing –

Each delegation member must pass two COVID-19 tests before departing for Orlando and another upon arrival.

For the first two weeks, people will be tested every other day. Regular tests will follow after that, including the day before each match.

On-field safety measures include asking all to “exercise care when spitting or clearing their nose”, with masks and social distancing required on the benches.

Those developing coronavirus symptoms must contact club medical staff, while anyone testing positive will be isolated. Those in high-risk groups need medical approval to participate.

Garber also said MLS plans to address racial inequality issues in the wake of the recent death of George Floyd and the protests that have followed.

“Together with our owners, players and staff, the league and its clubs are deeply committed to creating meaningful and impactful programs to address these issues that have plagued our society for far too long,” he said.

AFP

Rooney Says His Future Is In MLS Ahead Of All-Star Clash

In this file photo taken on July 25, 2011, Wayne Rooney of Manchester United speaks at the 2011 MLS All-Star Game press conference at All-Star HUB in New York City. 
Mike Lawrie / GETTY IMAGES NORTH AMERICA / AFP

 

Wayne Rooney stressed Tuesday that his future remains in Major League Soccer amid new suggestions his family are unsettled in Washington and want him to return to England before his current contract expires.

The former England and Manchester United forward bristled when asked about stories circulating in England that wife Coleen has demanded he quits North America when his current DC United contract expires at the end of 2021.

Rooney, in Orlando ahead of Wednesday’s MLS All-Star match against Atletico Madrid, says he has started work on his coaching badges and admits he wants to follow the likes of new Chelsea coach Frank Lampard and make the transition from player to manager.

The striker signed a three-and-a-half year deal last summer following his move from Everton.

But when asked by AFP if his wife has put down demands for him to quit football for the sake of his family, Rooney snapped: “Is that what was in the media? That my wife has got her own way?

“Those reports are a bit far fetched. I’m concentrating on playing for DC United and trying to get them into the playoffs.

“I haven’t thought about anything beyond that.

“I am a bit tired as I left on Tuesday morning at 4:00 am to come to Orlando but I feel in good shape.”

Rooney has enjoyed his spell in MLS, scoring 23 goals in 42 appearances.

At the age of 33, however, the Liverpool-born star knows his playing career won’t last forever.

“Coaching is something which I have thought about for a long time,” Rooney said.

“I’m in the process now of going through my badges. It would be a shame for me to finish playing and just walk away from the game.

“I have a desire to go into management and hopefully the right opportunity will come up.”

Rooney will team with fellow European star Zlatan Ibrahimovich and Carlos Vela, the Mexcian forward and current MLS goals leader, against an Atletico side boasting the likes of Spanish international Diego Costa and Portuguese wonderkid Joao Felix.

LA Galaxy forward Ibrahimovich, 37, gave the impression of someone who would rather be resting than taking part in an exhibition game in the searing Florida heat and humidity.

The Swede, however, undoubtedly loves the limelight, telling AFP: “It’s a game which has to be played. It’s important for MLS. This is their global window to play against a fantastic team like Atletico, but I just hope no one gets injured.

“All of our players have important games to come in our own season. We’re over halfway through now.

“I’m enjoying it in MLS though. I just how consider how my body feels. If I feel good, I’ll continue to play.

“What do I want to do after I finish playing? I don’t know. My whole life has been football.”

Arsenal Open US Tour With 3-0 Friendly Win In Colorado

Brazilian Gabriel Martinelli scored in his Arsenal debut Monday as the English Premier League club launched their pre-season tour of the United States with a 3-0 friendly win over the Colorado Rapids.

Bukayo Saka and James Olayinka also scored for the Gunners, who cruised to the victory at Dick’s Sporting Goods Park in suburban Denver.

Martinelli, the 18-year-old forward signed from Ituano on July 2, was given a surprise start in attack by Unai Emery and sent an early chance wide.

Saka, 17, was an energetic presence and put Arsenal up 1-0 in the 13th minute as he collected a through-ball from Eddie Nketiah.

Another teenager — 18-year-old Olayinka — doubled the score in the 29th, seizing a stray pass from defence and racing into fire into the top left corner of the net.

READ ALSO: Man City Set For Pre-Season Tour After Frustrating Delay

Martinelli, having missed his early chance, capped the scoring in the 61st when he slotted home a cross from close range.

The Rapids, in the midst of the Major League Soccer season, fielded a mostly reserve side that featured several players from the lower-rung Colorado Springs Switchbacks.

Arsenal, too, started a reserve team as they begin their build-up to the Premier League season after again failing to secure a Champions League berth.

The tour hasn’t started without controversy. Captain Laurent Koscielny refused to travel to the US, and a group of influential Arsenal supporters’ organisations published a statement on Monday hitting out at Stan Kroenke’s “passive ownership”.

Under a hashtag “WeCareDo You” the statement decried a “soulless” atmosphere at Arsenal’s Emirates Stadium and a lack of transfer strategy.

Kroenke, who began investing in the club in 2007 through his company Kroenke Sports Enterprises and took full ownership in 2018, also owns the Rapids as well as the NFL’s Los Angeles Rams.

AFP

Dempsey Raring To Go As Sounders Eye MLS Repeat

Dempsey Raring To Go As Sounders Eye MLS Repeat
SEATTLE, WA – NOVEMBER 30: Clint Dempsey #2 of the Seattle Sounders takes a shot on goal past Juan Cabezas #5 of the Houston Dynamo during the second leg of the MLS Western Conference Finals on November 30, 2017 in Seattle, Washington. Stephen Brashear/Getty Images/AFP

 

Clint Dempsey is looking forward to playing a leading role as the Seattle Sounders prepare to revisit history in a repeat Major League Soccer Cup final showdown against Toronto FC on Saturday.

Twelve months after stunning Toronto in a penalty shoot-out to lift the MLS crown for the first time, Seattle will again line up against their Canadian rivals as the curtain comes down on the North American season.

A year ago, USA international Dempsey was a frustrated spectator as Seattle ground out a 0-0 draw before prevailing on spot-kicks.

The diagnosis of an irregular heartbeat earlier in 2016 forced the former Fulham and Tottenham striker into an extended spell on the sidelines with some wondering if his health would ever allow him to return.

Fast-forward 12 months, however, and the 34-year-old Texan is desperate to help Seattle retain their crown once more at Toronto’s 30,000-capacity BMO Field.

“It’s tough to be on the sideline and not on the field battling with your teammates,” Dempsey said this week as he reflected on last year’s final.

“But in saying that, they fought hard all through the playoffs, they deserved to be in the final and then they fought hard in the final…But I’m happy to be playing with the team this time and hopefully play a part in it.”

Dempsey’s presence provides Seattle with a proven cutting edge in attack, a year after they went 120 minutes in the 2016 final without registering a shot on goal.

The arrival this season of Spanish forward Victor Rodriguez has also given Seattle a more potent look while Will Bruin found the net 13 times in 24 starts after signing from Houston in the close season.

– Scoring groove –

“In terms of depth, I feel like there’s a lot here,” Dempsey said. “I think with the weapons that we have, we should be able to create chances. But it’s a matter of doing it, it’s not talking about it.”

A 5-0 aggregate victory over Houston Dynamo in the Western Conference finals suggests Seattle have got into a scoring groove at the right time.

Nevertheless, Sounders coach Brian Schmetzer is adamant that Toronto, who had the best regular season in MLS, hold the edge for Saturday’s final.

“Toronto is the home team, they are the favorites, they are the ones playing in front of their fans,” Schmetzer told reporters on a conference call.

“We will just do the best we can and try and match up and give everybody a good final.”

Schmetzer’s caution is justifiable. Toronto, too, have improved as an attacking unit this season, lengthening the odds on another scoreless draw this year.

Toronto averaged 2.2 goals per game in the regular season, scoring 74 times in 34 matches, an improvement of 23 goals on their 2016 total of 51. It is the second highest goals tally in MLS history, behind Los Angeles Galaxy’s total of 85 in 1998.

“I think we have evolved as a group, we have more ways that we can win games than we did last year,” Toronto coach Greg Vanney said. “This year I think we have shown an ability through different ways to get results and score goals.

“To me that is the difference we feel like we can gain an edge in more than just one way where as last year we had a pretty precise vision in order to give us the greatest margin to win.”

Toronto striker Jozy Altidore, meanwhile, doesn’t care where the goals come from — as long as he is celebrating the first MLS Cup win by a Canadian team on Saturday.

“I would love to try and make a difference, I think every player would love to make the difference, it’s a final,” Altidore said.

“But at this point, it doesn’t matter how we win it just matters that we win.”

AFP

MLS Cup: Seattle Sounders Beat Toronto On Penalties

Seattle SoundersThe Seattle Sounders have claimed their first Major League Soccer (MLS) Cup after beating Toronto FC 5-4 on penalties.

The MLS title showdown between the two sides ended goalless on Sunday morning after extra-time as they proceeded into penalties.

Seattle defender, Roman Torres stepped up and coolly slotted home the winner after Justin Morrow hit the crossbar for Toronto.

The game was the first ever scoreless MLS Cup after extra-time.

Zlatan Ibrahimovic Confirms Offers From EPL

Zlatan-IbrahimovicSweden captain, Zlatan Ibrahimovic, has confirmed he has gotten offers from the English Premier League (EPL) ahead of the new season.

Ibrahimovic’s contract with French champions, Paris Saint-Germain (PSG) runs out in the summer.

The Swede had been linked to a move to Major League Soccer earlier in the season but his brilliant form has opened up other possibilities.

He has scored 35 goals in 40 games for PSG so far this season.

Ibrahimovic helped the French side progress to the quarter finals of the UEFA Champions league after beating English side, Chelsea 2-1 both at the Parc des Princes stadium and Stamford Bridge.

Obafemi Martins Joins Chinese Club Shanghai Shenhua

Obafemi MartinsNigerian striker Obafemi Martins has moved to China.

The 31-year-old joined Shanghai Shenhua in a multi-million dollar deal from Seattle Sounders.

Obafemi Martins joined the MLS club from Spanish side Levante in March 2013 scoring 43 goals and adding 23 assists in 84 appearances.

Martins was named the Sounders’ team MVP each of the past two seasons and was the runner-up for the league MVP in 2014.

The Sounders will open the MLS regular season at home against Sporting Kansas City on Sunday, March 6.

He scored 18 goals in 41 international appearances for the Super Eagles and was voted Africa’s most promising talent in 2003 and 2004.