Like almost everything with the COVID-19 Pandemic, there are no easy answers as to when or how the Major Arena Soccer League should resume play. There are many risks, few rewards, and loads of uncertainty.
Big-time leagues like the NHL, NBA, and MLB have been tossing around scenarios for weeks and progress is tediously slow. The MASL itself, following the lead of Utica City FC, put out a playoff proposal on May 21, and it was pretty clear by the end of the day that it was DOA.
The league basically proposed a 15-day, single-site playoffs, likely to take place in Utica without fans. Not only was it practically impossible for the league’s two Mexican teams to come to the United States to participate, but sources indicated that the Baltimore Blast, Milwaukee Wave, and Florida Tropics wanted no part of it either.
It was worth throwing the idea out there and gauging the reaction. One rule of brainstorming is that there are no bad ideas. In this tough situation there are only bad ideas and it’s in that spirit that I present a bad idea of my own.
What I propose is to extend the 24-game 2019-20 season into the 38-game 2019-21 season with play resuming in January where things left off.
The Monterrey Flash would pick things up in first place at 20-2, with 16 games remaining. The Florida Tropics would have to put their Eastern Conference Champions t-shirts on ice and defend their lead at 18-3 with 17 games remaining. And, yes, the Rochester Lancers would have 16 more tries to improve upon their single-win total.
Utica City, who had three home games remaining when the season was suspended, would have 18 games left, including 10 home dates and eight away dates. Everyone would end up with a total of 19 home dates over the two “halves” of the season.
The way things look now, the MASL may have trouble playing in front of fans before January as it is, which would impact the 2020-21 season. So instead of two incomplete seasons, the MASL could combine them into one super-season. The top teams would still be able to capitalize on their success from the abandoned season. Teams like the Harrisburg Heat and, to a lesser extent several other teams, would still have a shot at qualifying for the playoffs. There would still be a champion. No games would be canceled.
Things would just pick up where they left off, with a few adjustments. The teams would likely scrap their unplayed games from March and the league would replace them with a new schedule for the rest of the season. The league would still have a free agency period before January that would liven up the rest of the season more than this year’s anticlimactic trade deadline did.
Of course, there are downsides and questions. If the Orlando SeaWolves or any other teams fold, their records will remain on the standings, but the standings are incomplete right now anyway. An expansion team in Ft. Worth was expected to start play next year, but this seems like the worst time to launch a new team, and it’s already late in the year to start a new team from scratch.
Player salaries would have to be prorated over the shorter season, but that is likely to happen anyway. Players already missed out on checks for what would have been their final games and the playoffs.
The 38-game schedule would juice the stats. Franck Tayou would be on pace for 117 points, smashing Leo Gibson’s league “record” of 98. But to my chronic dismay, the MASL doesn’t have a record book, so if a record falls in the woods does it make a sound?
Four teams would have as few as seven home games left, but they could certainly augment those dates with international games or exhibition games if they so desired. If Orlando folds, Baltimore, Mesquite, Dallas, and Rochester could have a lottery for their extra two home dates to balance the schedule.
We don’t know if the Mexican teams will be able to travel to the US and vice versa. We don’t know if games will be allowed to be played with fans. We don’t know if the virus will come back with a vengeance in the Fall.
We do know that we don’t have a champion for 2019-20 and we probably won’t be able to play a normal 24-game season next year.
Continuing the season in January is the least worst idea I’ve heard so far.
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