The reality of sports during the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic is that when they are able to return, there could be a period of time where games are played with no fans in attendance.

Toronto FC captain Michael Bradley joined First Up with Landsberg and Colaiacovo on Monday and said that he’s had some experiences in training and playing preseason games with no spectators and the game atmosphere does not compare.

"It’s not the same, it’s not even close to the same,” Bradley told TSN. “For any of us, sports are about the emotion , whether you’re playing or coaching or watching, you go into a stadium or an arena to feel something, to be a part of something to live 90 minutes or 60 minutes or 48 minutes, to be a part of that. As players when you do that without fans, home fans or away fans, there’s a big part of that missing. My dad (LAFC head coach Bob Bradley) says that a game without fans has no soul and I would agree with that."

While it’s not the preferred path, Bradley acknowledges that for professional sports to be able to return from this hiatus sooner rather than later, empty facilities could be the only possibility and it’s one that he expects most athletes would choose.

Bradley on recovering from ankle surgery, TFC season and COVID-19

Toronto FC captain Michael Bradley joins First Up to discuss recovering from ankle surgery, how he is handling COVID-19 and more.

"Obviously, times are different right now and we all recognize that,” said Bradley. “As much as we play for the fans and we’d all give anything just to be able to return to normal, the reality is that’s not happening right away, so if the choice is for a period of time playing in arenas and stadiums with no fans or just wait[ing] longer, then I think every single one of us is going to choose the first option. It’s not anybody’s first choice, but I think in times like this we also all understand the responsibility that we all have to entertain people, to give people, in little ways for a period of time, hope and let them be a part of something.”

Though Major League Soccer and the rest of the North American sporting world are still working on their plans of action, Bradley thinks eventually sports will have a role to play in getting life back on track, but concentrating on health, well being and the workers in those industries is the most important thing right now.

"I think at the right time, it’s going to mean a lot for a lot of people," Bradley said. "I think it’s going to be a signal at a certain point that life is starting to get back to normal, however long that takes. Right now, there isn’t even a conversation. Right now all focus and resources [have] to be about flattening the curve and making sure our healthcare workers and first responders have everything they need to do their jobs and keep as many people as possible safe."

Bradley says that, come a certain point, the onus will be on athletes to perform.

"Once we move out of this phase, I do think as athletes we will have a responsibility to play, even when it’s in empty stadiums and arenas," Bradley said. "To play, compete and give people something to watch and be a part of.”

Bradley underwent ankle surgery in January to repair an injury suffered during last November's MLS Cup. The 32-year-old says that his mindset of getting back into playing shape has not changed.

"For me in all of this, my mentality in terms of what I’m trying to do from a professional standpoint, that part hasn’t changed,” said Bradley. “January 21, I had surgery on my ankle in New York, so for the last three months my mindset and focus has been rehab and how do I push everyday in smart ways to get myself one day closer to getting back on the field. Maybe I’ve been a little lucky, because with everything else going on, my mindset hasn’t changed."

Bradley has been able to access the team facilities in a very controlled environment, but is not sure when he’s going to get the chance to test his recovery in a real situation.

"The training facility is shut down for just about everybody, but because I have a longer term injury there are a few hours a day where myself and one physio are able to pop into the training ground and get the work and the rehab done that I need,” said Bradley. “When you get to the end of an injury, part of that last stage of rehab is training with the team and it’s hard to know at this point when that’s going to happen so we’re doing everything possible, so that when we start back up again I’m as far along as possible, if not ready to go.”

Bradley was expected to miss four months after having the surgery and while it hasn’t provided many upsides, the pause in the season has allowed him to focus on getting healthy and not worry about missing game time.

"Selfishly it’s the one little sliver of silver lining in all of this and I’d trade it away in two seconds for everyone else to be able to live their normal lives as a society, not to have lost the number of people that we have,” said Bradley. “For me just in that sense, it means I can concentrate one day at a time on trying to move myself along, trying to improve trying to make sure we give my ankle the best possible chance to heal, so you don’t plan for any of this, but you take what’s in front of you at any moment.”