Montreal Impact president/CEO Kevin Gilmore was outlining the team’s options amid the COVID-19 crisis when a bell rang in the adjacent room.
The chime meant a member of the Impact sales team had just sold season tickets for the current Major League Soccer campaign.
“I didn’t expect that today,” admitted Gilmore at Friday morning’s news conference.
It’s not exactly clear if those tickets will be for the current MLS schedule, as it exists today. If all goes according to plan, league play will resume April 11 following a minimum 30-day suspension because of the global spread of COVID-19. But that date could change.
Montreal’s next two MLS games on the original schedule have been postponed – in Minnesota on March 21 and Orlando on April 4.
Gilmore says MLS is trying to determine if that schedule will be condensed or if the end of season and playoffs will be pushed back. The postseason is currently slated for October.
Despite much uncertainty around the league, the Impact executive says the goal is to play a full season.
“I believe what the league will try to do is reschedule the postponed games,” he said. “There’s some flexibility because maybe the season can be extended. Maybe we can add more chartered flights for each team. Maybe we can play all the games in a shorter time frame.
“Nothing tells me we’ll lose those games.”
Gilmore also believes CONCACAF has every intention of finishing its Champions League competition, which was suspended for 30 days as well.
Montreal is in the quarterfinals, where it lost 2-1 to visiting C.D. Olimpia of Honduras in the first leg on Tuesday. The Canadian team was initially planning to leave for Honduras this weekend for the second leg next Tuesday.
Three other MLS teams are in the Champions League: LAFC, New York City FC and Atlanta United. The tournament semifinals were supposed to begin on April 7.
“MLS and CONCACAF will need to discuss to determine the schedule,” Gilmore said. “It’s not like CONCACAF will make scheduling decisions without consulting MLS.”
Training sessions have been suspended across the league until Monday.
Impact players have been asked to remain in Montreal and will resume training next week unless the COVID-19 situation has worsened, Gilmore said. The league is in communication with the players’ union on that matter.
The Impact have a doctor on staff who specializes in infectious diseases, and a contingency plan is in place if a player becomes ill.
“The protocol for testing is the same for our players as it is for the general public,” Gilmore said. “Testing is intended to use on people who have flu-like symptoms or have been exposed to people who have tested positive, as I understand it.
“There’s no anticipatory testing being done.”
Gilmore does not believe the Impact will suffer financially because there were no home games scheduled during the 30-day suspension. Montreal’s next home game on the original schedule is April 18 against the Houston Dynamo.
Gilmore did acknowledge that the COVID-19 pandemic would impact Canadians across the country – financially and otherwise.
“Sport has always been something that brings people together,” he said. “It’s a source of joy and entertainment, an escape. It’s part of human nature to want to be together. We’ll all be affected, certainly.
“But like everything else, I hope we’ll adapt and come back stronger than ever.”
Gilmore said Impact players will be paid during the suspension.