While American Legion Baseball teams are starting to take to the diamonds across Montana, youth soccer teams are still waiting to get on the pitch.
The Montana Youth Soccer Association board of directors met on April 23 and extended its suspension of all sanctioned activities until at least May 15. The suspension, a response to the COVID-19 pandemic and Governor Steve Bullock's preventive steps, applies to all MYSA member clubs and includes practices, training sessions, friendlies, games, tournaments, clinics, coaching education courses and Montana Development Program events.
The MYSA is a statewide organization that serves as the governing body for youth soccer in the Treasure State, and it will work to follow the guidelines outlined by Bullock's phased reopening of Montana.
"Our focus is on obtaining specific guidance from the offices of the Governor and the various health departments across the state about how youth soccer fits into Montana’s phased reopening," MYSA executive director Jeff Schoonover said in an email to MTN Sports. "The Governor’s Reopening the Big Sky plan addresses organized youth activities, but additional guidelines must be made available for the Montana Youth Soccer Board and myself to make informed and responsible decisions for our organization in the coming weeks."
The Montana High School Association executive board canceled its spring sports season, but American Legion Baseball teams are slowly progressing toward, and remain hopeful for, a shortened season. Teams from Billings, Bozeman, Butte, Great Falls, Helena, Kalispell and Missoula have started to hold tryouts and practices with the goal of playing games by late May. The regional and national Legion tournaments have been canceled, but Montana state tournaments could be played in August.
The MYSA is hoping to follow a similar path with its spring season, which was set to culminate in June with the Montana State Cup in Great Falls, the Montana Classic Cup in Livingston and the Montana Showcase in Helena. Now, the MYSA is aiming to push its spring soccer season into a summer league. The revised summer league would run in June and July with the state tournaments taking place the weekend of Aug. 1-2. A final decision on whether a summer league is feasible will come in May with a firm "go/no-go" date of May 29.
If the conditions surrounding COVID-19 don't allow the MYSA to reset a summer league, practices, recreational programs, tournaments and other soccer activities would still be possible if the MYSA is able to lift its suspension anytime after May 29.
"Our most important role in the reopening process will be to keep our soccer families safe, as well as to do our part in preventing our sport from negatively impacting the overall COVID-19 situation in Montana," Schoonover said. "Currently, MYSA is creating return-to-play protocols that will emphasize health and safety measures for when our soccer activities resume."
The MYSA includes 31 member clubs spanning the entirety of the state -- from Sidney to Libby and Big Sky to Havre. Schoonover noted that member clubs have performed admirably during the coronavirus pandemic.
"They have made up for the lack of in-person contact by sharing a lot of great digital content with their membership," he said. "These video meetings, challenges, training apps, etc. have allowed them to keep their players engaged. It is disappointing we have not been able to play soccer this spring, but the Montana Youth Soccer community is making the most of the situation."