May 29, 2020 - Sports

European soccer's push to return

Bundesliga match between Borussia Dortmund and FC Bayern Muenchen play in an empty stadium
A Bundesliga match between Borussia Dortmund and Bayern Munchen in an empty stadium. Photo: Alexandre Simoes/Borussia Dortmund via Getty Images

European soccer made a splash Thursday, with two of its biggest leagues announcing official return-to-play dates in June.

Why it matters: Soccer is the world's most popular sport, so watching its return through the lens of various leagues, countries and cultures — all of which have been uniquely impacted by the coronavirus pandemic — is illuminating.

Where things stand: Of the big five European leagues, Germany's Bundesliga has resumed play, England's Premier League and Italy's Serie A have official return dates, Spain's La Liga has an unofficial return date and France's Ligue 1 abandoned the season in April.

The big picture: Most women's leagues are either in limbo or have been abandoned. "It feels like the pandemic is undoing some of the recent progress in the women's game," writes Yahoo Sports' Leander Schaerlaeckens.

England's Premier League (standings)

  • Return date: June 17
  • Coronavirus numbers: 270,508 cases | 37,919 deaths
  • The state of play: The plan is to play 92 matches over roughly six weeks, with players tested twice a week and games played without fans. Liverpool home games will likely be at neutral venues due to fears of fans gathering en masse outside Anfield Stadium as The Reds close in on their first title in 30 years.

Italy's Serie A (standings)

  • Return date: June 20
  • Coronavirus numbers: 231,732 cases | 33,142 deaths
  • The state of play: Juventus, winners of the last eight league titles, are one point clear of Lazio atop the table with 12 matches remaining.

Spain's La Liga (standings)

  • Return date: June 11 (unofficial)
  • Coronavirus numbers: 237,906 cases | 27,119 deaths
  • The state of play: It appears either first-place Barcelona or second-place Real Madrid will win the league for the sixth straight year and the 15th time in the last 16 seasons. The last time someone else won? Atlético Madrid in 2014.

Germany's Bundesliga (standings)

  • The state of play: Bayern Munich holds a seven-point lead over second place Borussia Dortmund and look poised to win their eighth straight title. Matchday 29 (of 34) kicks off this afternoon.

France's Ligue 1 (standings)

  • Return date: Season abandoned in April (PSG crowned champs)
  • Coronavirus numbers: 186,364 cases | 28,665 deaths
  • The state of play: The legal battle against the decision to end the season will go to France's highest administrative court, with Lyon leading the charge to overturn the ruling.

Elsewhere in Europe, via Reuters:

  • Already resumed: Armenia, Belarus (never stopped), Czech Republic, Estonia, Faroe Islands, Hungary.
  • Plan to resume: Albania (June 3), Austria (June 2), Bosnia (June 13), Bulgaria (June 5), Croatia (May 30), Denmark (May 28), Finland (June), Ireland (June 8), Israel (May 30), Norway (June 16), Poland (May 29), Portugal (May 30), Russia (June 21), Serbia (May 29), Slovakia (June 13), Slovenia (June 5), Turkey (June 12), Ukraine (May 30).
  • Abandoned: Belgium, Cyprus, Gibraltar, Luxembourg, Malta, Netherlands, Scotland, Wales.
  • To be determined: Andorra, Azerbaijan, Georgia, Greece, Iceland, Kazakhstan, Kosovo, Latvia, Lithuania, Moldova, Montenegro, Northern Ireland, North Macedonia, Romania, San Marino, Sweden, Switzerland.

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