Major League Soccer has suffered a significant blow after FC Dallas was forced to withdraw from the MLS Is Back Tournament due to a widespread Covid-19 outbreak in the traveling party.
The move comes just days after FC Dallas’s competition opener against Vancouver Whitecaps, which was scheduled for July 9, was postponed.
Last week, it was announced that six FC Dallas players had tested positive for the coronavirus after arriving in Orlando, Florida, for the quarantined summer tournament which is being held at the ESPN Wide World of Sport Complex and is slated to begin this week.
However, a total of 10 FC Dallas players and one coach have tested positive since the delegation arrived in Orlando, forcing the team out.
“The decision to have them not participate in the tournament is in the best interests of everyone, of the Dallas players and the other 25 teams, and allows us to continue to manage the health and safety of our players while continuing to go forward with our plan,” MLS commissioner Don Garber told the Associated Press.
FC Dallas said it concurred with the league ruling, and is now preparing to resume competition later in the year following the tournament.
“We absolutely agree with the league’s decision to withdraw FC Dallas from the MLS is Back Tournament out of safety concerns for our players and staff,” said FC Dallas president Dan Hunt. “We’re looking forward to resuming the 2020 season once the entire club is healthy and in position to play competitive matches at the highest level.”
FC Dallas was drawn into Group B with the Seattle Sounders, Vancouver Whitecaps, and San Jose Earthquakes. Two of the teams were set to advance to the knockout rounds.
“The removal of FC Dallas from competition in Orlando is a reminder of how difficult the circumstances involving returning to work remains across all sports amidst this pandemic,” said the MLS Players Association. “The players and staff from FC Dallas worked incredibly hard over the last few months to be ready to take the field, but removing the team from the competition is both responsible and necessary.”
As MLS puts together a revised schedule, Garber says he is willing to shut down the tournament if need be.
“If there is a situation at any time that I believe that the protocols aren’t working, and the health and safety of our players is at risk, then I will make the decision to shut down the tournament,” Garber told AP. “That is something I committed to the players and to our entire league early on. But this is proving that our protocols worked and our plan so far has been sound.”
FC Dallas’s withdrawal from the MLS Is Back Tournament follows that of Orlando Pride prior to the NWSL Challenge Cup, also due to a coronavirus outbreak in the team.
All eyes are now on expansion team Nashville SC to see if they will suffer the same fate.
According to The Athletic, five Nashville SC players have also tested positive for Covid-19 since arriving in Orlando. Nashville SC, which has 29 players on its roster, is scheduled to face the Chicago Fire on July 8. It is unclear if this game is in doubt but according to reports, it may be postponed.
In a further blow, LAFC forward striker Carlos Vela has announced he will not take part in the tournament to remain with his pregnant wife. The hugely-popular Mexico international is the current MLS Most Valuable Player.