Costa Rica to become first league in the Americas to restart play

Costa Rica's first division will become the first soccer league in the Americas to start playing again following the break in play caused by the coronavirus pandemic, barring the Nicaraguan league, which never stopped.

The Costa Rican government announced Monday that professional sports can resume from May 15, with the Costa Rican federation (UNAFUT) president Julian Solano confirming that play will resume behind closed doors on Wednesday, May 20.

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"After a long wait, football is coming back to our fields starting from May 20 and playing Sunday, Wednesday and Sunday until [the season] is over," said Solano in a video press conference. "If there is a great final it will be on July 1."

The Clausura tournament was suspended on March 17, with seven of the 22 rounds of regular season matches still to play and Saprissa four points clear of bitter rival Alajuelense at the top of the table.

Solano also took a shot at other, arguably more prestigious leagues that have struggled to deal with a return following the crisis and have sent out mixed messages.

"We want, through this return to the pitch, to send a message and a positive image, not just for our society, but also to the whole world that Costa Rica can do it, [which is] distinct from other countries, including world powers, that haven't been able to," said Solano.

The league will be allowing five substitutions per game, he confirmed.

Costa Rica wasn't affected by the coronavirus outbreak as much as other countries, with 801 confirmed cases as of Monday evening over its population of just over 5 million.

Mexico's top division Liga MX is awaiting a "reactivation plan" from the government before announcing its probable return date, while MLS has stated that June 8 is the earliest date games could resume.

The Bundesliga will be back this Saturday, although clubs in other leagues, such as the Premier League, appear divided about how a return should play out.