Major League Soccer (MLS) commissioner Don Garber has said that the impact of the coronavirus pandemic is "deeper than what we expected" as he confirmed that the league and its teams have suffered a revenue hit close to US$1 billion compared to last year, reports, www.sportspromedia.com/.
MLS was suspended in mid-March just two weeks into its 2020 season and did not return until early July, when the league staged a bubble tournament at the ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex in Orlando.
The regular season subsequently resumed in August, with each of the league's 26 teams playing between 21 and 23 fixtures, down from the scheduled 34.
"The impact of all of this is probably deeper than what we expected," Garber told reporters during his annual state of the league address. "That is concerning to us, but our owners have been understanding this impact from the very beginning."
He added: "Revenue for the league and its clubs is down almost $1bn compared to last year. But we also incurred expenses we were not intending to occur, including charter planes for the teams and creating the whole bubble around MLS is Back."
Garber said MLS is currently planning to start next season in early to mid-March, although previous reports have suggested that the league could wait until April in order to allow more time for the possibility of an increased number of fans being able to attend games.
"We understand we are going to need some flexibility, but we are not going to be able to wait to make a decision until somebody decides fans will be able to [be in] stadiums," Garber said. "That is a date that is so uncertain at this point."
The 2020 season is set to conclude on Sunday with the MLS Cup final between the Columbus Crew and Seattle Sounders, but Garber admitted he was "concerned" about the impact the virus could continue to have in 2021.
"We are concerned about what this will look like leading into 2021 and are working at figuring out how we can manage through that," Garber said. "I am very, very hopeful that 2021 will be a way better year than '20 because I don't think any business can sustain the kind of impact that we sustained in 2020 for two years in a row."
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