Closed-door soccer games have always been an interesting novelty.

It’s memorable to see a big match with the same superstar players and the same clubs we know and love, but with a soundtrack straight out of any National Sports Center field on a summer Saturday afternoon: Clapping from the sidelines, a smattering of encouraging yells. You’d expect Messi and company to plop down on the field with a handful of orange slices at halftime.

Those novelties might become the norm as the pandemic refuses to relinquish its hold on the globe. The Bundesliga floated a plan this week to bring games back to empty German stadiums in May. But whatever the timeline, it will be a long time before it feels safe for fans to pack stadiums around the world.

What most jumps through the TV screen — the atmosphere of games played in front of huge partisan crowds — will be missing. But the alternative — mass bankruptcy and seismic changes in the soccer world — would be worse.

One of the best things about soccer’s global nature is the feeling of sharing something with people worldwide, whether the game is in Düsseldorf or Bournemouth or right here in St. Paul. Now, we might really all be together, because no matter whether we’re local fans or far-flung, we’ll all be on our couches instead of in the stadium.

SHORT TAKES

• The postponement of the Summer Olympics means that a number of difficult roster decisions for the U.S. women’s national team are being pushed back a year. The team can take only 18 players to the Olympics, rather than the usual 23 for the World Cup. Striker Alex Morgan’s pregnancy this spring no longer becomes an issue, while forward Carli Lloyd will have turned 39 by the time of the Games. New coach Vlatko Andonovski will have extra time to determine his favored lineup, in what is hopefully not an abbreviated NWSL season.

• The International Football Association Board released its list of changes to the laws of the game, including two that are particularly notable. One is an edited handball rule, in which only the portion of the arm below the armpit — basically, anything not covered by a short-sleeved T-shirt — will be considered. For another, the laws on VAR were rewritten to emphasize that the on-field referee, not the video assistant, should make the final decision. This is a rebuke to leagues such as the Premier League, which have directed on-field referees to use the pitch-side video monitor as little as possible.

 

Writer Jon Marthaler gives you a recap of recent events and previews the week ahead. E-mail: jmarthaler@gmail.com