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MLS floats idea of moving teams to Orlando to resume season

May 12, 2019 Atlanta: Atlanta United midfielder Pity Martinez scores his first goal of the season past Orlando City defenders in a MLS soccer match on Sunday, May 12, 2019, in Atlanta.  Curtis Compton/ccompton@ajc.com
May 12, 2019 Atlanta: Atlanta United midfielder Pity Martinez scores his first goal of the season past Orlando City defenders in a MLS soccer match on Sunday, May 12, 2019, in Atlanta. Curtis Compton/ccompton@ajc.com

Credit: ccompton@ajc.com

Credit: ccompton@ajc.com

If MLS is to return soon amid the COVID-19 pandemic, it may include teams temporarily moving to Orlando and its players competing for less money, according to separate reports Monday by the Washington Post and ESPN.

Steven Goff of the Post reported that MLS has proposed placing the league’s 26 teams in the large resorts around Walt Disney World in central Florida and playing games at the ESPN Wide World of Sports and other venues. The games would be played without spectators.

Several games would be played each day, with ESPN broadcasting them. ESPN is one of the league’s broadcast-rights shareholders. Others are Fox Sports and Univision.

Included in the plan is testing for the players, who also would be allowed to bring their families.

An Atlanta United spokesman said the team can’t offer a comment on the league’s return-to-play scenarios.

» MORE: Atlanta sports execs detail what's next

MLS finished two of its 34 rounds when the season was suspended March 12. The season won’t resume until at least June 8. Commissioner Don Garber has said many times that the league is going to try to do everything it can to play as many of its games as possible.

Orlando was the site of the 2019 MLS All-Star game. Atlanta United held part of its preseason training in 2018 in Champions Gate, near Orlando.

MLS recently allowed teams to host individual, voluntary workouts that are regimented by strict rules to try to limit social interaction. Atlanta United has held three workouts at its training ground.

Some MLS teams have yet to renew workouts because each state is handling the pandemic differently.

Florida and Georgia are two states that have lifted shelter-in-place restrictions.

According to ESPN, MLS submitted a proposal to the MLSPA calling for a 20% pay cut for players, as well as other financial restrictions. The league’s payroll is approximately $310 million. Most player contracts are structured to end Dec. 31 at the end of their term.

The league and the MLSPA have yet to ratify the collective bargaining agreement agreed to in February.