Major League Soccer is evaluating Nashville SC’s place in the MLS Is Back Tournament after the team’s scheduled game against Chicago Fire on July 8 was postponed because of a Covid-19 outbreak in its traveling party.
The encounter was due to be the second game on the opening day of the quarantined tournament, which is being held at the EPSN Wide World of Sport complex in Orlando, Florida. A new date and time is yet to be scheduled.
The move comes after five Nashville SC players tested positive for coronavirus, while four other players have received inconclusive test results, and require further testing.
More notably, the team’s place in the tournament has now been put into some doubt. MLS said in a statement: “In conjunction with the club, MLS will continue to evaluate Nashville SC’s participation in the MLS is Back Tournament following the results of additional testing.”
The postponement follows the enforced withdrawal of FC Dallas from the tournament earlier this week after 10 players and a coach tested positive for Covid-19.
There have been additional scheduling changes. Toronto FC’s game against DC United, which was originally scheduled for July 10, has been put back two days due to Toronto’s delayed arrival in Orlando. Meanwhile, the San Jose Earthquakes v Seattle Sounders match on July 10 will now be played at 9pm ET, instead of 10.30pm ET.
There are no plans to call off the tournament at present. But MLS commissioner Don Garber says he is willing to shut it down 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 the Associated Press. “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.”
Despite the Covid-19 cases, ESPN is confident that the early kickoffs during the MLS Is Back Tournament will lead to significant domestic television ratings during the mornings for the sports network this summer.
MLS is not the only American pro sports property to struggle with the logistics of resuming play amid a pandemic still growing in size in the US. Major League Baseball has also grappled with testing and reporting procedures as team training camps have resumed.