Mexico’s first-division soccer teams said they will return to the field after four months without play because of the coronavirus pandemic, but there will be no spectators when the first matches resume July 24.
The MX League said Wednesday that the new season will run July 24-Dec. 12 and that four more teams will be able to qualify for post-season play, for a total of 12. The top four squads advance automatically, while the other eight will play knock-out rounds to qualify.
League President Enrique Bonilla, who himself tested positive for the coronavirus, said it was unclear when the teams would be allowed to play in front of fans.
He said the previous season’s Tijuana-Monterrey Copa MX championship faceoff, which was cancelled in March, will be played on Sept. 16 and 23.
Mexico has not yet reached the peak of its coronavirus outbreak, and has seen 124,301 confirmed cases and at least 14,696 deaths.
To date, 33 first-division players have tested positive for the virus, though all were believed to be asymptomatic.
The league is requiring teams to be tested before resuming training sessions, which will initially be limited to six players at a time. Later, full-squad training sessions will begin. For games, there will be limits on greetings, celebrations and pre-match ceremonies.
The league suspended play March 15, with 10 of 17 scheduled match dates having been played. It was the first time since the 1943-44 season that a season in Mexican top-division league play had been cancelled.
“It was the best move, but that doesn’t make it any less sad,” said Bonilla.