NEW YORK – Major League Soccer Thursday provided updates and insights into the health, safety and medical protocols for the 2021 MLS season.
The protocols build on the COVID-19 prevention, screening, and monitoring efforts implemented last year, when the league returned to play with the MLS is Back Tournament in Orlando, and continued through the 2020 season, including the MLS Cup Playoffs and MLS Cup.
All policies and protocols have been developed by MLS’s medical department, in consultation with infectious disease specialists and based on guidance from government health authorities, as well as in collaboration with the MLS Players Association.
In addition to the In-Market Operations Manual and Medical Manual that are provided to each club with detailed health and safety standards and guidelines for their players, staffs, and facilities, a 2021 MLS Health & Safety presentation has also been distributed to all 27 clubs in English, Spanish, and French as an educational tool for players and team staffs. CLICK HERE to view the educational presentation.
Below are the key updates, as well as a selection of important returning initiatives, included in the 2021 protocols.
Team delegations will continue to travel via charter flights during the pandemic. In addition, clubs must limit bus capacities to 50 percent for travel and transfers with seating configured to provide as many seats, rows and free space between passengers as possible.
Face Masks and Personal Protective Equipment (PPE)
Any individual entering club facilities, including all players and other essential personnel, are required to wear face masks and, where appropriate, additional personal protective equipment (PPE).
— Players are not required to wear face masks while at club facilities:
— When training or playing matches.
— During meals or hydration while maintaining physical distancing.
— When not able to do so during indoor cardiovascular activities, due to a medical safety issue as determined in the clinical judgment of club medical staff, in which players can’t physically distance.
High-risk behavior includes engaging in activities where physical distancing is not observed between different groups and/or face masks are not worn by all participants. A list of activities considered to be High-risk behavior is detailed in the player and staff educational presentation and In-Market Operations Manual provided to clubs.
Players or staff members who have engaged in high-risk behavior will be required to quarantine for five days, unable to participate in group training or matches and conduct daily testing for 14 days.
So long as a player continues to test negative and remains asymptomatic, he may participate in individual workouts outdoors at the training facility during his mandatory five-day quarantine period. Following the quarantine period, the individual should avoid accessing indoor club facilities where possible through 14 days following the last day of high-risk exposure. Players that need medical treatment will be allowed access to the facility under the direction of the club medical staff.
High-Risk Close Contacts
Players or staff members who have been in close contact with an individual who has tested positive for COVID-19 and deemed to be a High-Risk Close Contact will be required to quarantine for five days, not participate in any group training or matches and conduct daily testing for 14 days.
A list of criteria for determining if an individual is a High-Risk Close Contact is detailed in the player and staff educational presentation and In-Market Operations Manual provided to clubs.
An individual that meets the definition of a High-Risk Close Contact, will be exempt from observing the five-day quarantine period for High-Risk Close Contacts provided that:
— The individual is fully vaccinated at the time of exposure, meaning the exposure took place at least two weeks following receipt of the second dose in a two-dose vaccine series, or at least four weeks following receipt of one dose of a single-dose vaccine.
— Is asymptomatic.
— Continues to test negative.
Those vaccinated individuals will be tested on a daily basis for 14 days following the last day of high-risk exposure.
Those players confirmed positive for COVID-19 will continue to be required to undergo the following cardiac testing prior to being cleared by their medical staff and returning to workouts or training:
— High-sensitivity troponin testing (or troponin I or T if high-sensitivity troponin);
— Standard 12-lead electrocardiogram (ECG); and
— Two-dimensional resting echocardiogram to assess left ventricular function.
In each case, the results of the player’s cardiac testing will be reviewed by the Club’s Chief Medical Officer and club consulting cardiologist.