When Will Sports Play Again?

With most of America opening up again after the pandemic which caused professional sports leagues to cancel or postpone their seasons, there are plans of restarting professional sports. Here are the latest plans for restarting:

National Basketball Association (NBA)

The NBA Board of Governors has approved a restart of the 2019-20 season on July 31 with 22 of the league’s 30 teams participating in a tournament format. All games will be held without fans at Disney World’s ESPN Wide World of Sports complex in Orlando.

National Hockey League (NHL)

NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman recently conducted a press conference outlining the NHL’s Return-to-Play plans.

This format will feature the top-12 teams in each conference playing in a qualifying round, with the top-four seeds in the Eastern and Western Conference (based on points percentage) clinching automatic bids into the first round of the playoffs. That means that the Boston Bruins, Tampa Bay Lightning, Washington Capitals and Philadelphia Flyers have clinched playoff berths in the Eastern Conference, while the St. Louis Blues, Colorado Avalanche, Vegas Golden Knights and Dallas Stars have clinched in the Western Conference.

These eight teams will also play in an intraconference round-robin event that will determine the top-four seeds of the first round of the playoffs in each conference. These games will be played with regular season overtime and shootout rules, with ties in the final standings broken by regular season points percentage.

The remaining eight teams in each conference will compete in a qualifying round that will feature a bracketed format, meaning that the five-seed will take on the 12-seed, the six-seed will face the 11-seed, the seven-seen battles the 10-seed, and the eight and nine-seed will matchup for the chance to move on to the first round of the playoffs. The matchups for the first round series remain to be set as the Return To Play committee is still determining whether to set the format based on seeding or a bracket.

Here is how that playoff format would look in both conferences:

Eastern Conference:
5 – Pittsburgh Penguins vs. 12 – Montreal Canadiens
6 – Carolina Hurricanes vs. 11 – New York Rangers
7 – New York Islanders vs. 10 – Florida Panthers
8 – Toronto Maple Leafs vs. 9 – Columbus Blue Jackets

Western Conference:
5 – Edmonton Oilers vs. 12 – Chicago Blackhawks
6 – Nashville Predators vs. 11 – Arizona Coyotes
7 – Vancouver Canucks vs. 10 – Minnesota Wild
8 – Calgary Flames vs. 9 – Winnipeg Jets

The qualifying round will be a best-of-five series, while the Return To Play committee has yet to finalize whether the first and second round of the playoffs will be a best-of-five series or a best-of-seven series. However, the Conference Final round and the Stanley Cup Final will all be a best-of-seven series.

Once the round-robin and qualifying rounds have ended, the league will conduct conference-based playoffs in each hub city.

The league is currently still debating over a total of 10 cities, and it will eventually come down to two final cities to host the Return To Play format once the league can officially restart play.

Those cities include:

Chicago
Columbus
Dallas
Edmonton
Las Vegas
Los Angeles
Minneapolis/St. Paul
Pittsburgh
Toronto
Vancouver

Commissioner Bettman did say that a final decision on the two hub cities to host the conclusion of the 2019-20 season might not come for another 3-4 weeks, and that a final determination will depend on COVID-19 conditions, testing availability, and government regulations.

Major League Baseball (MLB)

There is no decision on how or when Major League Baseball will return. This is largely due to indecision on plans between the league and the players’ union. The latest proposal is for a 76-game season to begin in July and end in October. The issue seems to be cutting player salaries for the shortened season proposal which the MLBPA is rejecting. If the indecision continues, the 2020 season could be cancelled.

Major League Soccer (MLS)

The latest plans are that MLS teams will go to Orlando and play all the tournament games at the ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex. The teams would be divided into groups like at the World Cup and play three group stage matches, which will be added to the original two matches all teams played towards their regular season totals.

Then 16 teams would advance out of the ‘group stage’ into a 16-team knockout style tournament. The teams that didn’t advance would go home with the others moving through the round of 16, quarterfinals, semifinals and finally the championship. Only the group stage matches will be added to the season totals.

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