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Amid COVID-19 Pandemic, When Will Pro Sports Return?

Updated Sports Schedule

Since mid-March, the sports world has been on hold due to the COVID-19 pandemic. With some countries around the globe starting to slowly open back up, there’s a real likelihood sports could come back sooner than you think.

Some leagues have already returned to action. While the NBA, NHL and MLB are still up in the air, the UFC resumed on May 9 and the German Bundesliga came back on May 16 without fans in attendance. NASCAR had its first race on May 17 and another on May 20 – the Toyota 500.

On May 12, Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey announced that major league sports can return in the state after May 15, given they follow CDC guidelines to protect public health. With the news, Arizona became the first state to allow pro sports to return. 

Less than a week later, on May 18, the governors of three of the United States’ most populated states – California, New York and Texas – said that professional sports can only return to their respective states without spectators as they outlined their reopening plans.​ 

Here’s a look at the potential time frames of sports coming back:

When Will Sports Return?

  • NBA: TBD
  • NHL: TBD
  • MLB: TBD
  • UFC: Returned on May 9 
  • Bundesliga: Returned on May 16
  • NASCAR: Returned on May 17
  • PGA Tour: “The Match: Champions for Charity” on May 24, Charles Schwab Challenge on June 11
  • English Premier League: Targeted dates are June 12, 19 or 26
  • La Liga: June 12
  • Turkish Super Lig: June 12
  • Serie A: June 13
  • Belmont Stakes: June 20
  • Champions League: August 7

When Will the NBA Return?

The NBA suspended its season on March 11 after Utah Jazz center Rudy Gobert tested positive for COVID-19. With teams having played 63 to 67 games in their 82-game season, there is currently no date set for a resumption of play.

When asked in a conference call with media on April 17 how the Association would proceed, NBA commissioner Adam Silver said: “Everything is on the table. If there is an opportunity to resume play, even if it looks different from what we’ve done historically, we should be modeling it.”

Any restart would push the completion of the 2019-20 season well past the traditional end date in June and the playoffs well into the summer. The latest rumor has the NBA resuming its season in Las Vegas, with players getting tested regularly for COVID-19 and games being played in an empty stadium.

Considering Vegas has long been the setting for the NBA’s summer league, Sin City makes a lot of sense in this scenario.

When Will the NHL Return?

The NHL’s season has been suspended since March 12, with teams having played about 70 games of their 82-game regular season. The NHL has drawn up plans that include resuming the season this summer, going directly to the playoffs and/or playing games in empty arenas in neutral-site cities in the event that not all teams will be allowed into their home rinks.

Like the NBA, the NHL season and playoffs would continue into the late summer for the first time in the history of the league. Recent reports suggested arenas in North Dakota and New Hampshire as potential neutral-site locations.

NHL commissioner Gary Bettman didn’t specifically mention those states, but told reporters on April 7 that securing neutral sites for games was “just part of considering all the potential options depending on how we find the circumstances.”

With players still in mandatory self-isolation, the second stage of hockey making a potential return would include getting players back in small groups at NHL facilities to begin working out as well as getting on the ice to skate. 

There is no timetable for the NHL to return to action right now, but expect more news to start funneling out about potential start dates over the course of the next month.

When Will MLB Return?

Major League Baseball cancelled the start of its season after only a handful of spring training games were played in both Arizona and Florida. There is no date set for MLB to come back, but the South Korean league recently became the first significant baseball league to resume play.

Unlike the NBA and NHL, MLB has a full slate of regular-season contests yet to be played, and finishing 162 games along with the playoffs is going to take a lot of work with the conditions surrounding COVID-19. There seem to be options on the table, however.

In early April, ESPN’s Jeff Passan reported MLB and its players are increasingly focused on a plan that could allow them to start the season as early as May and has the support of high-ranking federal public health officials.

The plan would dictate that all 30 clubs play games at stadiums with no fans in the Phoenix area, including the Arizona Diamondbacks’ Chase Field, 10 spring training facilities and perhaps other nearby fields.

Players, coaching staffs and other personnel would be sequestered at local hotels, where they would live in isolation and travel only to and from the stadium. If MLB gets the go-ahead on this plan, there is a good chance it could be the first North American professional sport to return.

When Will the PGA Tour Return?

The PGA Tour has officially announced it’s aiming to resume its season on June 11, starting with the Charles Schwab Challenge in Fort Worth, Texas. With tournaments continuing weekly after the Charles Schwab Challenge, no fans will be allowed to attend over the first four events.

The revised schedule has caused the cancellation of the Open Championship, but the Masters and U.S. Open will have fall dates for the first time in history. The U.S. Open is set for September 14-20 at Winged Foot Golf Club, while the Masters will be played from November 9-15 at its usual setting in Augusta, Georgia.

In the meantime, golf fans and bettors alike will have plenty to cheer about on Sunday, May 24, when Tiger Woods and Peyton Manning take on Phil Mickelson and Tom Brady in an 18-hole event called “The Match: Champions for Charity.”

For a full preview of the event, check out our betting preview.

When Will the English Premier League Return?

On May 18, the English Premier League shareholders voted unanimously to return to small-group training from May 18 on, the first step toward restarting competition when safe to do so. An exact return date is unclear, but the targeted dates are June 12, 19 or 26.

A day later, however, the Premier League’s first wave of mass COVID-19 testing of players and staff found six people infected at three of the 19 clubs to conduct the checks. The league is not identifying whether players or coaches tested positive from the tests on 748 people.

Regardless, socially distant training sessions can now begin, without the involvement of the six people with COVID-19 who have to self-isolate for seven days.

Given the positive tests, the aim of restarting the league on June 12 looks hard to meet. Premier League clubs will hold a conference call next week to discuss the protocols needed for contact training.