When the COVID-19 pandemic hit the United States, sporting events were some of the first things to go. Athletes travel constantly, and they spend a lot of time together.
Many sports require contact, contact that is capable of spreading germs, and games have huge crowds of fans, making them large events that would increase a person’s exposure to the coronavirus. So the long-awaited soccer, baseball, and basketball seasons were suspended indefinitely, and fans across the nation were left without live sports.
Now that much of the United States has gotten a better handle on the pandemic, sports are beginning to return, and although there will be changes, many Americans are excited to see their favorite athletes and competitions return to screens.
Globally and nationally, soccer was and will be the first sport to return. European soccer teams that are parts of the Premier League, such as Manchester United and Liverpool F.C., began playing games a couple of weeks ago. In the United States, MLS, Major league soccer, and the NWSL, National Women’s Soccer League, will be making their return in the next couple of weeks.
The NWSL has organized a twenty-three game tournament taking place in Utah that will stretch for one month, involving eight out of the nine teams, and most players. The MLS’s season will resume on July 8. The league’s teams will be playing games as they were in March before COVID-19 began to seriously affect the United States.
There will be no fans at any game in either league, and players are continually being tested. Issues arose with positive cases in the Orlando Pride, the NWSL club that is not participating in the Challenge Cup tournament, but most other procedures and precautions have been running smoothly, and fans are excited to see the return of their favorite players and teams.
College basketball fans were devastated when they learned the annual March Madness tournament would not be conducted in the spring, and while there’s been no word on whether or not it will be rescheduled, there are proposed restart dates for the NBA and the WNBA.
The NBA will resume its season on July 31, with the Milwaukee Bucks leading the Eastern Conference and the Los Angeles Lakers, for which NBA superstar LeBron James plays, leading the Western Conference. The NBA plans to restart in Orlando, Florida, which is currently seeing a tremendous rise in cases of the virus, and they’ve already had 16 players test positive for COVID-19, but conversations are ongoing and adjustments are sure to be made accordingly.
The WNBA didn’t get a chance to begin their season, but the victors of the 2019 Playoffs, the Washington Mystics, will be looking to be repeat champions, while the New York Liberty, who drafted college stand-out Sabrina Ionescu, will be just one of the teams challenging the Mystics for the title this year.
American baseball fans were forced to find new entertainment when the sport, commonly referred to as “America’s pastime”, didn’t begin in the spring.
Professional baseball’s return has been one of the hardest to negotiate, and there have been more than a few disagreements about what the best and safest way is to bring players and baseball back. However, it seems that MLB has finally settled on a start date, either July 23 or 24 and several new rules to ease the transition back, some relating to baseball and others relating to testing and coronavirus precautions.
Last year, the Washington Nationals defeated the Houston Astros in the World Series, and the defending champs will have to reckon with teams like the Yankees, Red Sox, and Cubs when the season begins.
As was expected when talk of the return of sports and the reopening of the country began, not everything has gone perfectly, or even smoothly. However, there are many precautions concerning testing for COVID-19 and the health of athletes, and fans are excited for the return of soccer, basketball, baseball, and others, which will be a small step in the direction of regaining normalcy.