MLS gives OK to small group training sessions

Seattle Sounders captain and MLS soccer midfielder Nicolas Lodeiro poses for a photo after he took part in a flag raising for the launch of the "All I...

Seattle Sounders captain and MLS soccer midfielder Nicolas Lodeiro poses for a photo after he took part in a flag raising for the launch of the "All I...

NEW YORK (AP) — Major League Soccer gave its teams the go-ahead Thursday to begin small voluntary group training sessions outdoors.

The group sessions, which must comply with local public health and government restrictions, are the next step in the league’s efforts to return to action after suspending the season earlier this year because of the coronavirus pandemic.

Teams must submit club-specific plans for the sessions to the league. A maximum of six players may be assigned to a single group.

The league said teams may split full fields into two halves and teams may define up to six zones per half, spaced at least 10 feet apart. Only one player may be in each zone at any time to maintain physical distancing. Players may switch zones but two players cannot occupy the same zone.

Players may pass and shoot on goal, but all training exercises must allow for 10 feet of distance. Players must remain with their group and may not interact or switch with players in other groups. Goalkeepers are not allowed to spit on their gloves.

The league said all other health and safety measures required when teams began individual training must still be maintained, with equipment being sanitized after use and players being screened before being allowed on the training fields, including temperature checks.

The league-wide moratorium on full team training remains in effect through next Monday.

Most MLS teams have already begun individual training.

D.C. United announced that it would begin individual workouts Friday after receiving approval to hold them in Leesburg, Virginia, where the club’s USL affiliate plays.

The club said it’s working with the Washington, D.C., mayor’s office on when the team can begin using Audi Field and training fields at RFK Stadium.

Chicago and San Jose are the only two clubs that haven't started individual workouts.