CALGARY -- Minor league soccer is starting again in Calgary today, with enhanced health and safety measures. The Calgary Minor Soccer Association’s 530 teams have not played a game in over 15 months due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

The regular outdoor season will run from June 15 to July 29. Teams for children ages nine and older will have the option of participating in a fall season beginning Aug. 28. For younger children, there will be a biweekly program that focuses on fun and skills building.

As a part of the league’s COVID-19 health and safety efforts, “physical distancing will be required when participants are not actively on the field of play,” said Jennifer Rowett, the Calgary Minor Soccer Association's league coordintor. A post-game hand shake between the two competing teams will also be replaced by a socially distanced walk by.

During practices, coaches may briefly break the two metre distance to correct or teach a skill, but must be wearing a mask to do so. If they are maintaining two metres from the athletes, coaches do not need to wear a mask.

Spectators must be three metres from the players and coaches, while also staying two metres from those in different households. Off the field, “masks will be required when two metres distancing cannot be maintained,” Rowett added.

This season, the league has focused on keeping games within the teams’ respective communities to minimize COVID-19 spread. The under 10 and under 12 teams will only play once every seven days. The league “has taken this downtime to restructure our league and bring soccer closer to families while working to reduce accessibility barriers to our sport," said Jordan Stewart, r the Calgary Minor Soccer Association technical leader.

The schedule for games beginning today until the end of the month are posted on the Calgary Minor Soccer website.