When Italy's Serie A soccer division shut down seven weeks ago, the country was among the hardest hit by the COVID-19 virus. Now, the top division is setting its sights on a return to the pitch in May. 

Italian Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte announced Sunday that professional sports teams will be permitted to resume practicing on May 18, opening the door for Serie A clubs like Juventus, Inter Milan and A.C. Milan to begin training again. Individual athletes will be permitted to resume training on May 4. 

While nothing has been announced beyond the clearance for training, the news creates a logical possibility that Serie A games could be played as early as June. Those games would undoubtedly need to come with significant precautionary measures with regards to coronavirus, including keeping fans out of the stadiums. 

According to Conte, Italy's Sports Minister Vincenzo Spadafora "will work intensely with the football system, the professional sports in general, to find a road map that we have already partly defined in terms of the resumption of individual training on May 4 and teams on May 18" and then "evaluate if the conditions will allow the leagues that were suspended to be completed."

Serie A has 12 rounds remaining, with Juventus leading the league standings by a single point. The league has been shut down since March 9. 

According to John Hopkins, Italy has had the third-most confirmed cases of COVID-19 in the world (over 197,000 diagnosed), behind the United States and Spain. Italy has had the second-most deaths attributed to the virus with over 26,000 casualties.