The launch of legalized sports betting in Colorado is still set for May 1. The timeline for major sports leagues in the U.S to return to normal operations, however, is still uncertain in the face of the COVID-19 pandemic.
When the NBA suspended its regular season on March 11, all major sports leagues and events in the U.S. began to follow suit. The cancellation of the NCAA men’s basketball tournament wasn’t far behind, leaving bettors unable to wager on March Madness and making a profound impact on sportsbooks’ bottom lines across the country.
The 2020 outlook for the NBA, NHL, Major League Baseball and the NFL is still up in the air, along with NASCAR, tennis, golf, horse racing and mixed martial arts. Here’s a look at where some of the major sports leagues in the U.S. stand:
The NBA hasn’t released any official insights on what will happen with the remainder of the regular season. The 2019-2020 campaign was about 75 percent complete when the league suspended the regular season on March 11.
The Denver Nuggets were third in the Western Conference with a 43-22 record at the time, on par with some of the best regular seasons in franchise history. When, or if, the Nuggets get back on the court, is anyone’s guess.
ESPN’s Brian Windhorst reported earlier this week that NBA officials are spending far more time discussing the financials of cancelling the season, versus talks of how to finish the season.
If the season does play out, it will likely be shortened in some way. NBA commissioner Adam Silver spoke to the uncertain status of the rest of the season on a recent episode of “#NBATogether with Ernie Johnson” on Twitter.
Via Yahoo Sports’ transcription of Silver’s comments:
“In a perfect world, yes we would try to finish the regular season in some form and then move on to the playoffs … but what I’ve learned over the last few weeks is that we just have too little information to make those sorts of projections,” Silver said.
The NHL schedule runs parallel to the NBA, and in many of the same arenas nationwide. The NHL has directed players to self-quarantine through April 15, extending that time period from an original date of March 27.
Like the NBA, the NHL was in the home stretch of the regular season when the league suspended play on March 12. With less than a month to go on the schedule, the Colorado Avalanche were in second place in the Central Division with 92 points, and just two points behind the Western Conference-leading St. Louis Blues.
NHL Deputy Commissioner Bill Daly told the Athletic that playing a full 2020-21 season is a top priority, and that any scenario that put that in jeopardy would not be entertained. The 2020-21 season is scheduled to begin in early October 2020, meaning that any form of an extended 2019-2020 season would have to finish up in time for the following season to properly begin.
Major League Baseball
Opening Day 2020 for Major League Baseball, originally scheduled for March 26, might happen as soon as May, which would be good news for Rockies fans.
MLB and the MLB Players Association are working on a plan that would see all 30 MLB teams play in Arizona. Chase Field, home of the Arizona Diamondbacks, would host games, as well as other Phoenix-area spring training facilities, and perhaps other fields.
The games would be played with no fans in the stands and come with a set of unique in-game rules. Jeff Passan of ESPN reports that these stipulations could include players sitting six feet apart in empty stands instead of in the dugout, no visits to the pitcher’s mound from catchers or coaches, and an electronic strike zone that allowed umpires to keep proper distance from players.
MLB officials are also discussing playing seven-inning doubleheaders for much of the season, in an attempt to recoup lost time and play something close to the full 162-game schedule.
This plan is still up in the air, however. Milwaukee Brewers outfielder Christian Yelich said he thinks there’s a 50/50 chance the season is outright cancelled, according to an article on Yahoo Sports.
The scheduled start of the Broncos‘ 2020 NFL season is still five months away, but the COVID-19 pandemic could still force the league to deviate from its intended start date of Sept. 10 for the 2020-2021 season.
The NFL Draft has already been switched from a live event in Las Vegas to a virtual draft, set to take place April 23-25.
In a March 31 conference call with team owners, NFL executive vice president Jeff Pash stated that as of now the league is moving forward as if the Sept. 10 opening day will stand.
The league has postponed offseason activities, however, and isn’t allowing any kind of in-person free agent meetings for now.
Other Events in the U.S.
Horse Racing – All three Triple Crown races have been postponed. The Kentucky Derby is rescheduled for September 5. The Preakness and Belmont Stakes are both postponed, with no announced rescheduled dates yet.
NASCAR – All races through May 3 are postponed. NASCAR officials have announced intentions to reschedule all postponed races at some point in 2020.
Tennis – The French Open has been rescheduled from its original May 24-June 7 dates, and is now slated for September 20-August 4. Wimbledon, originally scheduled for late June/early July, has been outright cancelled.
The U.S. Open is, for now, still scheduled to take place Aug. 24-Sept. 13 in Flushing Meadows, New York.
Aside from these three majors, the ATP and WTA, the governing bodies for major men’s and women’s tennis, have both delayed the start of their 2020 seasons through at least June 7.
Golf – The PGA has cancelled or postponed several events, including major championships like the Players Championship, which was originally scheduled for March 11-14 but was cancelled altogether.
The Masters (originally slated for April 9-12) is rescheduled for Nov. 12-15, the PGA Championship (originally scheduled for May 14-17) is now slated for Aug. 6-9., the U.S. Open has been moved from June 18-21 to Sept. 17-20, and the 2020 British Open is cancelled.
UFC fights appear to be postponed for the foreseeable future.
UFC President Dana White tried to find a way to make the upcoming UFC 249 happen, but ESPN reports that White will not go through with those plans.
The card was originally scheduled for April 18 at the Barclays Center in Brooklyn, New York, with a main event of Khabib Nurmagomedov versus Tony Ferguson for the UFC lightweight title. Nurmagomedov is home in his native Russia and unable to travel, however, so Justin Gaethje was rumored to be taking on Ferguson.
ESPN reported earlier this week that White was looking into holding the event on tribal lands, possibly on the west coast of the U.S., to get around state athletic commission regulations.