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MLS Is Back Tournament faces COVID-19 complications

Soccer

The MLS may need to reconsider their super inventive return-to-play tournament name, aptly called the “MLS Is Back Tournament.” Maybe something like “MLS is kind of back, but maybe not for long, and not everyone is here...Tournament”?

July 13, 2020
NWSL/TWITTER
NWSL/TWITTER

The GIST: The MLS may need to reconsider their super inventive return-to-play tournament name, aptly called the “MLS Is Back Tournament.” Maybe something like “MLS is kind of back, but maybe not for long, and not everyone is here...Tournament”?

What’s going on?: As predicted, Nashville SC (SC stands for Soccer Club) became the second team (the first was FC Dallas — FC stands for Football Club) to pull out of the tournament after several players and team staff tested positive for COVID-19, leaving 24 of the league’s 26 teams participating.

  • As a result, the group stage of the tournament had to be slightly rejigged, with Chicago FC, who usually plays in the Eastern Conference, moving over to play in the Western Conference’s Group B.
  • And yesterday, adding fuel to the fire, the match between D.C. United and Toronto FC (TFC) was postponed just minutes before kickoff, after a D.C. player tested positive and a TFC player’s test came back as inconclusive. The match has somehow been rescheduled for today...

Is the tournament continuing?: So far, yes. But we’re not totally sure how. Despite comprehensive testing before teams traveled to “the bubble” at Disney World in Orlando (where they’re staying close to the NBA, BTW), the league has reported several positive tests since the teams arrived.

  • And this is a BFD: this tournament marks the official start of the regular season, so all points that teams earn count towards their season standings. If enough teams find themselves facing postponed or canceled games (or having to pull out altogether), we anticipate some major backlash.
  • Over in the NWSL, the Challenge Cup is also well underway with a similar setup. But they’re facing fewer issues than the MLS.

Why’s that?: The MLS has three times as many teams as the NWSL (who has nine teams in the league, and eight teams playing in the Challenge Cup), so it’s understandable that the MLS is facing three times as many issues. Both leagues have also experienced a schedule shuffle thanks to teams dropping out.

  • But the difference seems to be the bubble. The MLS is playing in Florida, the world’s newest epicenter for COVID-19 (yesterday, the state reported over 15,000 new cases in one day), and at least two players have tested positive after testing negative before entering the bubble.
  • Meanwhile, the NWSL set up shop in Salt Lake City, Utah, a state that’s reporting relatively low numbers, and all players and team staff live between just two hotels and two stadiums. So far, there have been no positive tests within the bubble. Dare we say, women just plan better?