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, the German Bundesliga came back on May 16 and NASCAR had its first race on May 17 – all without fans in attendance.
On May 12, Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey announced that major league sports could 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 could 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?
When Will the NBA Return?
The NBA suspended its season on March 11 after Utah Jazz center Rudy Gobert tested positive for COVID-19.
On June 4, the NBA board of governers approved a restart of the season on July 30 without fans in attendance. Twenty-two teams will return, with the 16 clubs in playoff positions in each conference along with the six teams that are currently six games or fewer behind the eighth seed in their respective conferences.
The season restart will begin with “seeding games” for each returning team and could include a play-in tournament for the eighth and final playoff seed in each conference, depending on combined records across regular-season games and seeding games.
The play-in tournaments would take place on August 15-16, with the playoffs beginning on August 17. The conference semifinals go from August 31 to September 13, the conference finals will go from September 15-28 and the NBA Finals will span from September 30 to October 13.
The setting will be at Disney World’s ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex in Orlando, Florida. The 220-acre complex has three arenas where the league could hold games and there are multiple hotels in the area, which would make it easier for players and their families to limit outside exposure while the season ends.
When Will the NHL Return?
Seventy-five days after the NHL announced a pause on the 2019-20 season, league commissioner Gary Bettman announced the league’s return-to-play plan on May 26 that ended the regular season.
Bettman stated that, in a best-case scenario, training camps will begin “not earlier than the first half of July.” Since players have asked for a three-week training camp, the earliest the puck will drop is in late July or early August.
The top 12 teams in both the Eastern and Western conferences will compete in qualifying playoff rounds to determine the 16 teams that will compete for the Stanley Cup.
The top four clubs in each conference will play a round robin to decide first-round seeding, while the remaining eight squads in each conference will participate in best-of-five play-in series to advance to the first round of the playoffs.
Each conference will be assigned a “hub city” that is designed to operate as a bubble for players and team personnel. Secure hotels, arena, practice facilities and in-market transportation will be provided.
To find out more about how the NHL’s unprecedented move is going to impact sports bettors, check out our article How the 2020 NHL Playoffs Format Impacts Betting Odds.
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 had a full slate of regular-season contests yet to be played, and finishing 162 games along with the playoffs would prove daunting with the conditions surrounding COVID-19.
Two days after MLB players union head Tony Clark declared additional negotiations with the league futile, MLB commissioner Rob Manfred reversed his position of last week when he said he was “100 percent” certain the 2020 season would start.
“I’m not confident. I think there’s a real risk, and as long as there’s no dialogue, that real risk is going to continue,” Manfred said on ESPN. “The owners are 100 percent committed to getting baseball back on the field. Unfortunately, I can’t tell you that I’m 100 percent certain that’s going to happen.”
Manfred needs approval from 75 percent of owners to impose a season. According to SNY’s Andy Martino, there are at least six owners who don’t want a 2020 campaign.
When Will the PGA Tour Return?
The PGA Tour resumed its season on June 11 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 next event is the RBC Heritage, which gets underway on June 18.
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.
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.
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. The Premier League announced on May 28 that it will have a restart on June 17, with Aston Villa at home to Sheffield United and Manchester City hosting Arsenal.