Nashville’s game with the Chicago Fire, originally scheduled for July 8, was postponed on Tuesday as the league made a decision on the team’s future in the tournament, with the withdrawal meaning there are now only 24 MLS clubs competing at the ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex outside of Orlando, Florida.
As a result of the withdrawals, the league has reconfigured the tournament to consist of six groups containing four teams, with the Fire moving from Group A to Group B.
“We have withdrawn Nashville SC from the MLS is Back Tournament. Due to the number of positive tests, the club has been unable to train since arriving in Orlando and would not be able to play matches,” MLS commissioner Don Garber said in a statement released by the league. “For every decision we make in our return to play, the well-being of our players, staff, officials and all participants is our top priority.”
Nashville arrived in Orlando on July 3, with the news that five of the club’s players had tested positive for COVID-19 coming on Tuesday. Four players have since received confirmed positive results.
“In what has been a challenging year, and in an uncharted environment created by the Tornado that devastated our city and COVID-19, this is another big disappointing outcome for Nashville SC and its supporters,” Nashville CEO Ian Ayre said in a statement issued by the club.
ESPN’s Stefano Fusaro reports on additional MLS is Back Tournament matches being postponed.
“Our focus now lays on the recovery of our players who have been infected with COVID-19 and on getting our complete traveling party back home safely. Once everyone is safe and healthy in Nashville, we can then turn the page and focus on our preparation and participation in the return to play for the latter half of the season post Orlando.”
FC Dallas was forced to pull out on Monday after 10 players and one staff member tested positive for COVID-19, with the squad still awaiting confirmation on when it will be able to return to Texas to rejoin family.
MLS remains confident that the strict COVID-19 testing procedure for players arriving at the bubble and once they are inside it means the situation is under control and that the tournament can safely go ahead.
The MLS is Back Tournament marks the return of men’s soccer in the United States following the stoppage due to the coronavirus outbreak.
The competition kicked off Wednesday with Orlando City defeating Inter Miami 2-1.