Professional spring sports are back after COVID-19 delayed or canceled numerous leagues' seasons.
Major League Baseball and professional soccer are trying to salvage what’s left of their seasons with a shortened number of league games, coronavirus checks before matchups and playing in empty arenas.
The Arizona Diamondbacks kick off their season opener against the San Diego Padres at Petco Park in San Diego this evening, beginning a three-game series this weekend. The matchup will be broadcast on FOX Sports Arizona at 6:10 p.m. MST.
Experts predict the victor of this weekend’s series will be poised to take second place in the NL West division, behind the Los Angeles Dodgers, who in the top spot. The D-Backs faced the Dodgers earlier this week in this season’s brief two-game spring training but were blown out by a score of 9-2 on Sunday, July 19, and 12-1 on Monday, July 20.
Major League Baseball shorted their typical 162-game season down to a mere 60 games in addition to hosting games in crowd-less stadiums. The league is also testing players for the virus before the start of games. Before Thursday’s season opener between the Washinton Nationals and New York Yankees, Nationals star Juan Soto tested positive for COVID-19 and will be out of the season until he recuperates.
While the D-Backs battle the Padres, professional soccer club FC Tucson is on their way to Florida to face Inter Miami II for their season opener on Saturday, July 25 at 4:00 p.m. Just like MLB they too won’t be having attendees at their matches. However, that isn’t the case for all the clubs within the league—USL League One, according to FC Tucson President Amanda Powers.
“You’ll find that some of the USL marketed teams we’ll be playing against will actually have fans in the stadiums. Games in Tucson will not,” Powers said. “While we won’t be having fans at Kino Sports Complex, we will be streaming all our games on ESPN Plus and also hosting a drive-in watch party at El Toro Flicks Carpool Cinema.”
Powers said while their 28 game season has now been shortened to 16 games, the football club is ready to safely return to the field after the four-month delay. The league also lost one team—Toronto FC II—due to travel restrictions. However, the Canadian soccer club is expected to return once international travel resumes freely. Another change in this year’s season is each team will increase the number of its substitute players from three to five, just in case any starters get sick.
“That really has a lot to do with the amount of travel we’re doing,” Powers said. “The fact is this season is going to be hard on our guy’s bodies.”
In lieu of a playoff season this year, USL One will be using a points system for teams who win. The top two teams with the highest points will face each other in the league’s championship match on Oct. 31.
“These players have been training. They’ve basically been sheltering in place with minimal exposure to keep their bodies in top-fit condition to win and bring home a trophy to say Tucson is the champions,” Powers said. “We came here to win despite everything that’s going on.”