Which sport returns 1st? Odds give NBA, NHL best chance at July comeback
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Just over a week has passed since the NBA suspended its regular season, effectively launching a sports blackout in response to concerns over the coronavirus outbreak. Other leagues quickly followed suit, with the NHL, MLB, and MLS suspending their seasons indefinitely, and none look to be returning anytime soon.

Can't wait any longer to bet on those sports? Ironically, you can wager on just how long you'll be waiting for each of those four leagues to return - and you might not like the odds for the over.

NBA

First game played by... YES NO
June 1 +325 -550
July 1 +115 -155
August 1 -170 +130

The NBA was the first league to shut its doors after Utah Jazz center Rudy Gobert tested positive for the coronavirus on March 11, and it's been at the front lines of informing fans and bettors just how long this layoff could last.

On Thursday, commissioner Adam Silver told ESPN's Rachel Nichols the league would resume "when public health officials give us the OK," which likely means mid-to-late June at the earliest based on the latest reports regarding owners' expectations.

Silver sounded optimistic but hesitant about the league's chances of returning this season, even floating the idea of an NBA exhibition game for charity during the hiatus. It seems unlikely players would risk injury for an exhibition if they knew the season was starting soon thereafter, though it's hard to project just how long they'll be waiting before basketball resumes.

The longer this season suspension drags on, the more pressure the NBA will be under to shorten the 2020-21 campaign, which would add a whole host of new logistical challenges in addition to a damaged 2019-20 season. That leaves two likely scenarios: A mid-to-late June return (+115) or a canceled season (+130).

The best bet, unfortunately, might be the latter.

NHL

First game played by... YES NO
June 1 +300 -500
July 1 +110 -150
August 1 -160 +120

The NHL and NBA calendars share plenty of similarities, but that doesn't mean the schedule for one will mimic the other.

On Wednesday, deputy NHL commissioner Bill Daly said the league wants to avoid any scenario that cuts into a full 82-game slate next season. That seemingly rules out plans resulting in the postseason extending into late July or early August.

Last year's Stanley Cup Playoffs lasted just over two months, and while the league could move ahead with a truncated postseason, that still doesn't bode well for returning later than June and still preserving a full 2020-21 campaign.

If the NHL hasn't resumed games by June 1 (+300) - which seems highly unlikely given current CDC recommendations - it might not return until next season (+120).

MLB

First game played by... YES NO
June 1 +300 -500
July 1 +145 -185
August 1 -140 +100

Because MLB had yet to start its season before suspending play, it can get the most creative with scheduling solutions.

The league has already delayed Opening Day by at least eight weeks, and it will likely need two-to-four weeks of spring training before starting again, which all but rules out a return by June 1. Talks of abandoning the 2020 draft (June 10-12) and international signing period (July 2) aren't great signs either, though money appears to be the biggest factor there, not safety and public health.

The only potential snag tied to reworking the MLB season is the league and players' union not coming to terms on how to handle service time in a shortened campaign, but that seems unlikely to derail an entire season.

The best bet on the board is a return in July or later (-185), giving a league eager to play its full season enough time.

MLS

First game played by... YES NO
June 1 +275 -450

While not one of the four "major" sports in the U.S., soccer gets the best chance to return before this summer in the oddsmakers' minds. Perhaps that's out of necessity: MLS is the least equipped of the domestic leagues to weather a lengthy work stoppage without revenue from games.

On Thursday, MLS announced it won't return until at least May 10, but that's still a more optimistic date than what's being projected in other leagues. MLS officials have also discussed pushing back the league's championship by a month, which might offer enough wiggle room for an early-summer comeback.

If you're going to bet on any of these leagues returning by June 1, take MLS, but it's looking unlikely we see play from any of the four before then. As somber as it feels, it's worth betting "no" at short odds on any or all of these leagues returning no earlier than June 1.

At least you'd get a small profit from your sports hiatus.

C Jackson Cowart is a betting writer for theScore. He's an award-winning journalist with stops at The Charlotte Observer, The San Diego Union-Tribune, The Times Herald-Record, and BetChicago. He's also a proud graduate of UNC-Chapel Hill, and his love of sweet tea is rivaled only by that of a juicy prop bet. Find him on Twitter @CJacksonCowart.

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Which sport returns 1st? Odds give NBA, NHL best chance at July comeback
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