MLS mulling tournament format, neutral-site games if season returns

Jack Harrison: MLS isn't a retirement league (1:23)

Jack Harrison speaks about his time with New York City and the impact of playing with players such as Frank Lampard. (1:23)

MLS commissioner Don Garber said that the league is "focused at getting in as many games as possible" but that the season's suspension due to the coronavirus pandemic will alter how they will be played.

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Speaking to ESPN's Taylor Twellman, Garber said MLS is exploring alternative formats to completing the season, which has been suspended until at least May 10.

"From tournament formats and neutral locations, ultimately playing an abridged regular season, but doing everything to get as many games," Garber said.

Garber added that if and when play does resume, games would mostly be played behind closed doors in what he dubbed "MLS Studio" games.

"We might be playing further into the winter," Garber said. "That's even hard to imagine because we had a zero Celsius MLS Cup in Toronto in mid-December in 2017, but we're going to have to push this season as far as we can so that we can crown a champion in 2020."

On Wednesday, however, MLS released a statement saying the league realized that a return to action by mid-May was unlikely.

In the statement, the league said: "Although we hoped to return to play in mid-May, that is extremely unlikely based on the guidance of federal and local public health authorities. Our goal remains to play as many games as possible, and while we currently have enough dates to play the entire season, we recognize at this time that it may become difficult to do so."

Garber added that MLS is closely monitoring its counterparts in England and Germany in regards to how those leagues are implementing testing and training protocols.

MLS has a training moratorium for its players until April 24, but Garber said that would be extended "at least a couple weeks."

Garber also said "nothing formal" has been discussed as far as a reduction of player wages but that those talks likely will take place.

MLS Players Association executive director Bob Foose told ESPN's Jeff Carlisle last week that the league had not approached the union about players taking salary cuts, and added that teams are better equipped than others throughout the world to cope with the effects of the pandemic.

In light of Real Salt Lake cutting the salaries of some employees and furloughing others, Garber said he expected more clubs to make decisions on the salaries of non-playing staff.

MLS announced last week that it cut the salaries of its top three executives, including Garber, by 25%, while also reducing management and other staff pay.