America’s favorite pastime is back. Major League Baseball returned on Thursday for a shortened season after the regular 2020 season, which was scheduled to begin on March 26, had to be postponed due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The MLB is the first major sports league in the U.S. to return to regular season play, after Major League Soccer kicked things off with the “MLS is Back Tournament” before the regular season resumes in August. The NBA is set to resume the 2019/2020 season on July 30, while the NFL season is scheduled to begin in September.
At this point it goes without saying that all league games will be played without spectators for the time being, an idea that sports fans seem to have warmed to as the pandemic dragged on. When Morning Consult asked fans about a possible crowdless return of pro sports in early April, 70 percent of American sports fans said they’d prefer to wait until its safe to attend games again. By late May, that percentage had dropped to 38 percent, while those saying leagues should return asap in empty venues rose from 16 to 41 percent. More than four months into the pandemic, the proposition of crowdless sports looks increasingly attractive, especially when the alternative is no sports at all in 2020.
Europe’s major soccer leagues have already successfully returned to play without fans at the stadiums. While the German Bundesliga has already finished its season without any hiccups, the English Premier League and Spain’s La Liga are set to conclude their seasons this weekend.