by Paul Kennedy @pkedit
We don't yet know how great will be the death toll from the coronavirus or how long all or parts of the United States will be sheltered in place or just how badly hit will the economy be.
But we will never look at the world the same again.
Or soccer, too.
The focus right now is still on the short term. MLS and the USL have extended the suspension of league play until May. The start of the U.S. Open Cup has been suspended, and it's hard to see how it can be played in 2020. The NWSL has put preseason training on hold. All major youth competitions have been shut down.
The jury trial in the U.S. women's national team's gender discrimination suit against U.S. Soccer is scheduled for May 5, but the U.S. district court in Los Angeles, where the trial will be held, has banned jury trials in civil and criminal cases through April 13 or otherwise ordered by the court.
For practical purposes, a trial won't be happening any time soon. But the reality, it won't ever happen. The history books will write that it took a pandemic for the players and federation to come terms. The world is a different place since last week, folks.
On Thursday night, California extended the shelter-in-place order that went into effect on Tuesday in the Bay Area to the entire state, and I'd imagine other states will follow soon. All but essential businesses, services and activities are closed, and social-distancing rules must be adhered to for those that remain open.
This shutdown is a wake-up call about just what is essential in our lives.
The Seattle Times asked Sounders keeper Stefan Frei for his comment about the news that the MLS moratorium was extended. Like that of so many Americans, Frei's life and those of his teammates have been placed in limbo.
“As much as soccer has been a huge part of my life," he admitted, "there’s bigger things in life than games. This is an entertainment and right now there are way more important things going on in this world. It’s important as a collective and as individuals that we take certain precautions.”
I've heard many in the sports industry say there will so much pent-up demand for sports that fans will flock to stadiums and arenas or their televisions to watch games once the pandemic is over. I can think of pent-up demand for a lot more important things like hanging out with family and friends and rebuilding our lives.
I've seen little reference to soccer as a spectator sport in the national media coverage of American life and the coronavirus, but I often see "youth soccer" used in reference to social institutions being impacted.
In a New York Times column first published on Monday about whether there might an overreaction to the coronavirus, Amy Harmon wrote, "No one wants to be seen as prioritizing profit or, say, youth soccer over saving lives."
We will know in the next year or two just how much a priority is youth soccer in the lives of families, and I think we will find it is indeed a priority but not to the degree it was before. A lot of the excesses of youth soccer will be shed, not least because of the new economic realities. It's hard to imagine something like the Development Academy with its heavy travel continuing in its current form. Or much of youth soccer's pay-to-pay model.
The current pandemic will impact our communities like nothing since World War II. Pro clubs and youth teams will learn soon enough just how essential is soccer in the lives of their fans and families, but they will also have to learn to serve them in ways they might have never thought of before.