Such are the ongoing uncertainties surrounding COVID-19 that were we still in the print era, this article would be written in pencil with an eraser on standby.
As the clamor grows for society to tread carefully back to something like normalcy, however, it does no harm, if only for the sake of morale-boosting, to see where we stand concerning the marquee events in the 2020 sports calendar. In this most untypical year, which of them survives to fight another day, and what might that day be?
Here’s a list of sports and their key dates, in descending order of certainty, or as certain as anything can be right now.
Tokyo 2020 Olympics Rescheduled For 2021
Olympic organizers ended weeks of uncertainty when they announced that the 2020 Olympic Summer Games would keep their name and venue but not their place on the calendar. The 2020 Tokyo Games will now take place next year, with the Paralympics following 16 days later.
Tokyo 2020 Olympics (originally July 24-Aug. 9 2020) – Now scheduled July 23-Aug. 8, 2021
NASCAR Takes Pole Position As Sport Returns
After losing eight races to the coronavirus hiatus, NASCAR sticks a toe in the water this weekend as the first professional sports series to return to the office. The Real Heroes 400 at Darlington kicked off an interim schedule that takes the NASCAR Cup calendar through June 21. It includes a mix of Sunday and Wednesday races in front of empty stands.
Upcoming event: Toyota 500 (May 20)
Indy 500 Moves To August
For the first time since 1945, the Indianapolis 500 will not take place anywhere near its traditional Memorial Day Weekend slot. The pandemic has seen America’s most famous auto race bumped back three months. Begun in 1911, the 500 has occasionally been canceled in wartime and postponed by up to six days because of rain but this year’s long-term postponement is a first.
Indianapolis 500 (originally May 24) – Now scheduled for Aug. 23
Kentucky Derby Set For September
Horseracing has continued in certain parts of America despite COVID-19 but the virus was too close to home when it came to the biggest race of them all. Kentucky Derby organizers announced in March that the 2020 race would be postponed by four months.
As for the other two legs of the Triple Crown, the Preakness Stakes will now be run in the Fall, while the Belmont remains penciled in for June 6. Also keeping its original date for now, The Breeders’ Cup is set for Nov. 6 and 7 at Keeneland.
- Kentucky Derby (originally May 2) – Now scheduled for Sept. 5
- Preakness Stakes (originally May 16) – Now scheduled for Oct. 3
Golf: November Masters The Eye-Catcher In Majors Reschedule
No British Open this year is sad; a US Open in September will seem merely unusual, and a PGA Championship in August is only how it used to be before 2019. No, for the biggest cultural shift, not only in golf but in the whole sporting calendar, look no further than Augusta National. For years, the Masters has been the beloved harbinger of summer; this year, it will be the warm-up for Thanksgiving. Temperatures down by 10 degrees, flowers in hibernation, leaves turned brown. Bet accordingly…
- US PGA Championship (originally May 14-17) – Now scheduled for Aug. 6-9
- US Open (originally June 18-21) – Now scheduled for Sept. 17-20
- US Masters (originally April 9-12) – Now scheduled for Nov. 12-15
- Evian Championship (originally July 23-26) – Now scheduled for Aug. 6-9
- British Open – Aug. 20–23
- ANA Inspiration (originally April 2-5) – Now scheduled for Sept. 10-13
- PGA Championship (originally June 23-28) – Now scheduled for Oct. 6 to 11
- US Open (originally June 4-7) – Now scheduled for Dec. 10-13
- Ryder Cup – Sept. 25-27
Tennis – Coronavirus Gets French Open Moving, U.S. Open Could Follow
Tennis has had mixed fortunes with coronavirus. This year’s Australian Open, mercifully, was in the books before the world ground to a halt. The US Open clings to its original slot but Wimbledon has been lost, leaving the French Open as the Grand Slam‘s sole mover for now but don’t be surprised if the US Open also has to postpone.
- French Open (originally May 25 to June 1) – Now scheduled for Sept. 20 to Oct. 4
- US Open – Aug. 31 to Sept. 13
MLS – Winter Return Considered, Could Push Final Into 2021
Major League Soccer is currently contemplating playing all its matches around a Florida ‘hub’, starting in July, to curtail travel and resurrect its fledgling 2020 regular season. It has wrapped up its season in early November of late but used to play into December, so it could live with a return to that timetable, should the coronavirus prompt further postponements. MLS has spoken of pushing the MLS Cup Final into early 2021 if necessary, so the date below is not set in stone.
MLS Cup Final – Tentatively scheduled for Nov. 7
NFL – Wiggle Room Available For Season Start
The Superbowl may be for next year, but the NFL‘s opening weekend is an event in its own right, as one of the most keenly-awaited dates on the sporting calendar. The League has structured the first quarter of its regular-season schedule to give it the option of rescheduling or even cutting weeks 1 through 4, if necessary.
- All international games (London and Mexico City) will now be played in the U.S.
- NFL Opening Weekend – Sept. 10, 13, and 14. Kansas City Chiefs host the Houston Texans in Thursday Night Football.
MLB – Baseball Faces Shortened Schedule
Major League Baseball hopes to pick up where it left off by completing Spring Training in June and starting a shortened 82-game regular season in July. While still on the slate, the All-Star Game is considered unlikely to go ahead. The game is due to take place in Los Angeles but large gatherings may still be prohibited in California come July. New World Series dates are awaited, but MLB wants to complete the season no later than the first week in November to try and beat any resurgence of the coronavirus.
MLB All-Star Game – Tentatively scheduled for July 14
NBA – Fighting To Save Season In Face Of COVID-19
While MLB and the NFL fret over their new season, the NBA is still trying to salvage its old one. There is growing confidence that it can do so, but with the current focus on simply creating a safe environment in which to play, the format of a resumed season remains undecided. There has been talk of remaining regular-season games being canceled and a play-in tournament being held to decide play-off qualification, although one player has suggested there are plans to finish the current season even if it means playing into the Fall.
NBA Finals (originally to start June 4) – to be rescheduled.
NHL – March Madness On Ice?
Here, too the present emphasis is on safety, with the NHL considering contesting games at regional centers in parts of the U.S. and Canada where the coronavirus has posed a relatively smaller threat. Only if that is feasible will format come under the microscope, although some interesting play-off ideas have been floated. While the NHL could dump the rest of its regular season and embark on a 24-team playoff, with best-of-seven series, there has been some talk of a one-game playoff involving all 31 teams, along the lines of college basketball’s ‘March Madness’, although this seems a longshot.
Stanley Cup Finals (originally late-May) – to be rescheduled.