CHICAGO — U.S. Soccer Wednesday released the final phase of its five-phase PLAY ON campaign, providing coaches, players, parents, referees and administrators with the complete return-to-play guidelines during COVID-19 to help ensure the safety of all participants.
PLAY ON was created to inform and assist in the process of organized soccer returning to play nationwide during the COVID-19 pandemic, and is divided into five progressive phases, from Phase 0 (stay at home) to Phase IV (no COVID-19 related restrictions). With Phase I and II already released, Phase III has now been published at ussoccer.com/playon, providing the complete return-to-play recommendations as Phase IV is the return to normal soccer activity without restrictions.
While Phase III allows for full-team competitions to return, each phase of the return-to-play recommendations should only be taken if and when state and local COVID-19 regulations deem it safe.
“While we’ve now released our full return-to-play guidelines, it’s important that everyone first follow local and state regulations before taking any steps forward,” U.S. Soccer Chief Medical Officer George Chiampas said in a statement. “Different areas of the country are at different phases, or even returning to previous phases, as the entire country continues to deal with coronavirus outbreaks. Clubs and teams should take a slow and methodical progression between phases to make sure that all participants will be as safe as possible.”
PLAY ON includes a comprehensive Grassroots Soccer Recommendation Guide that provides all those involved in youth soccer – players, coaches, parents, administrators and referees –important safety protocols to consider and implement at each stage of return to play. The guides also contain valuable information that can be applied to all levels of the game.
Phase I of PLAY ON allows for training in small groups, while Phase II provides for full-team training and the newly launched Phase III presents recommendations for the safe return and management of full-team competition. Even in Phase III, COVID-19 prevention and response protocols, outlined in earlier Phases, should still be followed. Social distancing should be maintained when possible and teams are recommended to only participate in regional single-day events to avoid significant travel or overnight stays.
Each phase should follow sequentially, with Phase I suggested to last four-six weeks and Phase II three-six weeks before progressing to Phase III.
“Regardless of which phase a club or team is operating in, everyone should be prepared to take a step back and revert to an earlier phase if needed,” Chiampas said. “This can be in response to increased risk, cluster outbreaks, updates to public health guidelines or an inability to safely maintain COVID-19 prevention and response protocols. It is important to remain vigilant and flexible as we prepare for every scenario. By prioritizing the safety of our soccer community, we can preserve the health of those around us and help ensure that our sport can remain a part of our lives at this time.”