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United, rest of USL Championship soccer on hold

Fans cheer as the New Mexico United team takes the field prior to the start of the first game in its inaugural season last March. The team’s home debut has been put on hold as the United Soccer League has suspended operations in the wake of the coronavirus crisis. (Roberto E. Rosales/Journal)

New Mexico United and the rest of the USL Championship are joining the growing cadre of sporting ventures that are suspending operations, the league announced on Thursday, in an attempt to curb the spread of the novel coronavirus.

“It was very clear from our owners that the health and safety of players, fans and staff was their top priority,” United Soccer League CEO Alec Papadakis said in a release. “In consultation with local, state and national health authorities, as well as the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the Department of Homeland Security, we have temporarily suspended match play for a minimum of 30 days.”

The USL’s decision to suspend operations — rather than continue to play in empty venues as other sporting institutions have done — mirrored that of Major League Soccer, whose league office announced later in the day that all play would be halted immediately as the novel coronavirus continues to spread in the United States.

In addition, the U.S. women and men’s national teams canceled their previously scheduled matches for the rest of March and April.

According to a statement released by the club, New Mexico will be following the direction of the league amid what the World Health Organization on Wednesday officially classified as a global pandemic.

“From day one, we have been proud to be part of our community,” majority owner and CEO Peter Trevisani said in a statement provided by the team. “Part of being a community means taking steps to keep everyone healthy. We will be playing whatever role necessary to ensure the health and safety of our fans, players and staff.”

The 30-day suspension will result in the postponement of at least five matches, including United’s home opener against El Paso Locomotive FC originally scheduled for March 21 at Isotopes Park.

It wasn’t immediately clear whether players and staff would continue to be paid while the suspension is in place. Additionally, the club is closing the doors to its retail store in Nob Hill for a minimum of two weeks beginning Thursday.

United’s front office declined to comment beyond its official statement released early Thursday afternoon.

NMU said it expects postponed matches to be made up later in the year but retained a cautious tone, noting the COVID-19 outbreak “remains fluid” and acknowledging the possibility that the suspension of play could exceed 30 days.

All tickets purchased for United’s first three home matches are to be exchanged and honored in the future, according to the club.

The USL said it would provide additional updates in the future regarding the continuation of the 2020 season “when appropriate.”

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