As youth and recreational sports in Minnesota on Wednesday took a small step toward eventually returning, the news also came that the nation’s largest youth soccer tournament held annually in Blaine was canceled amid the coronavirus pandemic.
Certain youth and recreational activities can go on with “guidance’’ and with groups under 10 people but without games as Gov. Tim Walz announced Phase 2 of his Stay Safe MN plan on reopening the state.
There was confusion over whether the changes already begun Monday with Phase 1 of the plan — as Steve Grove, commissioner of the Department of Employment and Economic Development, said Wednesday — or will start June 1 when Phase 2 begins.
“We are seeking clarification right now,’’ said Todd Johnson, executive director of the Minnesota Amateur Sports Commission. “… Clearly, people are concerned and seeking that clarification.’’
Meanwhile, the National Sports Center canceled all tournaments and leagues, including the 2020 Target USA Cup, through July. The USA Cup drew 1,152 teams from 22 states and 20 countries in 2019. The USA Cup attracts roughly 25,000 people per year to Minnesota.
“It’s a sad day. Thirty-five consecutive years of an uninterrupted event that brought the international community to Minnesota,’’ said Johnson, who also is executive director of the National Sports Center. “… We were trying to figure out ways [to hold the event]. Safety and concern for the participants and their families was most important.’’
Johnson estimated that the USA Cup accounts for nearly 20% of the annual revenue for the National Sports Center.
“We’re going to be scrambling to figure out what’s next,’’ he said. The plan is for the tournament to resume in 2021.
As for the return of youth and recreational sports competition in Minnesota, that would come in Walz’s Phase 3 on a date to be determined.
“We’re not in the stage yet of games being a part of this guidance, but that’s something we’ll evaluate again as we continue to go through the phases,’’ Grove said.
He added that day camps will be allowed under Phase 2 but not overnight ones.
Johnson saw the Phase 2 loosening as a good sign in a long process.
“We’re trying to figure out safe ways to get athletes together and train and get ready,’’ Johnson said. “Unfortunately, it looks like that’s what this summer could be. If we get it right at the beginning, maybe there’s a potential for competition later in the summer, but for now, if we can tiptoe along and gingerly go about it, we will get there.’’