On Thursday, the Major Arena Soccer League announced it was cancelling the rest of the 2019-20 regular season amidst an avalanche of entertainment closures ranging from concerts to major sports leagues like the NBA, NHL, and MLB, due to concerns about the COVID-19 pandemic.
“It’s a disappointing end to an exciting regular season, but the health and safety of our players, fans and staff is paramount,” said MASL Commissioner Joshua Schaub. “It was a significant sacrifice for our owners to forego the remaining regular season games, but it was the appropriate decision considering the gravity of the situation.”
The dominoes began to fall on Wednesday when Washington Governor Jay Inslee announced a ban on events with 250 or more people, forcing the Tacoma Stars to announce the relocation of their March 13 game against the San Diego Sockers to the Tacoma Soccer Center. Later that night the NBA announced it was suspending its season and other leagues followed suit in rapid succession.
Only four teams had completed their 12 game home schedule and 25 games remained on the schedule. The Orlando SeaWolves lost four home dates, while Tacoma, the Harrisburg Heat, and Utica City lost three. Everyone else lost two or fewer dates.
The MASL’s regular season ends with the Monterrey Flash and Florida Tropics leading their conferences. Teams completed as few as 20 games and as many as 23 games of their 24-game schedule. Eleven teams were still in contention for one of eight playoff spots. Only three teams had already clinched a spot in the playoffs.
St. Louis Ambush co-owner Shelly Clark was among those trying to assess the uncertain landscape. “Unfortunately, none of us have insight as to how this is all going to play out,” she said on Friday. “Currently each state, county, and city are putting different restrictions on what is and isn’t allowable. It’s difficult to plan anything at this point in time.”
The cancellations have left an impact on teams, players, and fans. “I can’t speak for everyone, but I know that we are working closely with Ticketmaster and the Family Arena to issue refunds and other options for those who had purchased tickets,” said Clark. “This process is going to take time, and we appreciate everyone’s patience as we face a challenge that we’ve never faced before. There is obviously a loss of revenue for teams who were still to host games, however, the safety and health of our fans was the focus when the owners banded together to make this decision.” Clark did mention that while her team does carry several insurance policies, none of them cover a loss due to viral infections.
The Dallas Sidekicks season was set to end on Sunday and players will be paid through that time. “Yes we got paid up until March 15,” said Sidekicks forward Freddy Moojen. “No deductions whatsoever. Thumbs up for this organization.”
At least one team was paying players through March 22. Across the league players were sent home. Teams in the playoff hunt asked their players to stay in shape and work out on their own in hopes the league would be able to stage a postseason.
Remote hopes for a playoff took a hit Sunday when the CDC recommended cancelling events with 50 or more people for at least the next eight weeks.
While the league only formally cancelled the remaining portion of the regular season, teams seemed resigned to the reality that there will be no feasible way to return to the field anytime soon. The Baltimore Blast in a message to their fans yesterday said the “season has come to an end”.
Milwaukee Wave owner Mike Zimmerman expressed a similar sentiment.
Ian Bennett of the Milwaukee Wave reminded everyone that if the playoffs are cancelled, the Wave will still be defending champions heading into 2020-21.
MASL2, the Premier Arena Soccer League, and Western Indoor Soccer League (women) also suspended their seasons.