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How Atlanta United would be affected if MLS follows CDC guidelines

01/13/2019 -- Marietta, Georgia -- Members of the Atlanta United soccer team practice at their training facility at the Children's Healthcare of Atlanta Training Ground, Monday, January 13, 2020. (ALYSSA POINTER/ALYSSA.POINTER@AJC.COM)
01/13/2019 -- Marietta, Georgia -- Members of the Atlanta United soccer team practice at their training facility at the Children's Healthcare of Atlanta Training Ground, Monday, January 13, 2020. (ALYSSA POINTER/ALYSSA.POINTER@AJC.COM)

Credit: Alyssa Pointer

Credit: Alyssa Pointer

At least eight Atlanta United games would be affected if MLS follows the recommendation made Sunday by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention that all gatherings of more than 50 people during the next eight weeks be postponed, canceled or rescheduled to try to curb the spread of COVID-19.

“Large events and mass gatherings can contribute to the spread of COVID-19 in the United States via travelers who attend these events and introduce the virus to new communities,” the CDC said in a statement.

MLS said last week that it was postponing games for the next 30 days but that they would be rescheduled. Atlanta United President Darren Eales last week said the teams were providing to the league its available venue dates.

The league has yet to say if it is following the CDC’s advice for this lengthier postponement.

Atlanta United's games affected by the 30-day decision made by the league and CONCACAF were: 
March 14 vs. Sporting KC
March 18 vs. Club America in CONCACAF Champions League
March 21 at Chicago
April 5 at Cincinnati

Games that would be affected if the 30 days were changed to eight weeks:
April 19 vs. Portland
April 26 at Orlando City
May 3 vs Real Salt Lake
May 9 at Philadelphia
May 16 at New York Red Bulls.

The MLS season consists of 34 regular-season games. Two rounds have been played. The playoffs were scheduled to start in October and the MLS Cup was to be contested on Nov. 7.

The league shortened the season in 2019 so that it ended in early November. Previously, the season ended in early December.

Complicating the rescheduling is that the league has a few teams, including Atlanta United, competing in the Champions League, which has also been postponed. The U.S. Open Cup has also been suspended. If it restarts, and it has been played every year since 1913-14,  would include 23 of the league's 26 teams. The third round, which is when some MLS teams enter the bracket, was scheduled to start April 21-23. The final was scheduled to be played Sept. 22-24. Atlanta United is the defending champion.

The leagues’s remaining three teams would compete in the Canadian Championship if it is played. The winners of the U.S. Open Cup and Canadian Championships earn berths in the next year’s Champions League. Should each of those tournaments elect to play it takes away some possible dates for league games to be made up.

Atlanta United has an advantage in that Mercedes-Benz Stadium can quickly be transformed from football to soccer and vice versa. The building has no more scheduled events that take long buildouts like the Final Four did. Kenny Chesney's concert on May 16 has been postponed.