MLS removes FC Dallas from tournament as COVID concerns continue to rise

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At around 6:00 PM this evening, MLS officials requested that FC Dallas officially withdraw from the MLS is Back Tournament in Orlando, Florida. The decision comes after many days of worry continued to build throughout FC Dallas’s traveling party which included nearly 50 players, coaches, and team staff.

Mandatory Credit: Jerome Miron-USA TODAY Sports

FC Dallas announced support of the leagues decision in a press release.

Mandatory Credit: FC Dallas

According to MLS officials, 10 players and a staff member tested positive for COVID since the team arrived on June 29th. Upon arrival, each team and their traveling party go through two rounds of mandatory COVID testing. The first of the 10 positives came that day and the entire traveling party has been in isolation since Saturday, July 4th.

“As we continue to focus on the well-being of our players, coaches and staff who are in isolation in Orlando, we understand it is not in their best interests to compete at this time,” said FC Dallas Head Coach Luchi Gonzalez via team press release.

The worry over whether player safety is truly at the forefront of this soccer tournament was known weeks prior with many players voicing individual concerns. Most recently, the top player in all of MLS, LAFC forward Carlos Vela, decided to opt-out of the tournament citing his partner’s pregnancy and the risks surrounding it.

And who can blame him? Not me.

According to the most recent testing data released by MLS, 1,191 players, coaches, referees, club staff, league staff and ‘other individuals’ apart of the MLS delegation were tested on July 3 and/or July 4. Of that group, two players tested positive.

MLS releases testing data every other day or so with aggregated COVID-19 testing results. The first report was released June 30th. 392 people including anyone from player to league staff were tested with four positive tests.

The next day, July 1st, MLS released another COVID-19 testing update specifically related to FC Dallas. MLS confirmed that six players tested positive for COVID while two of those players tested positive upon arrival on June 27th. Meaning, the first positives belonged to Dallas.

Some matches have been postponed as well. Last Friday, Dallas’ first game, originally scheduled for Thursday at 10:30 p.m., was officially postponed. Other teams have postponed travel plans. Toronto FC was slated to arrive in Florida back on July 4th after a traveling party member tested positive. They left today. One other club, Colorado Rapids, have yet to arrive. On July 5th, club officials were alerted to two presumptive positive COVID tests, forcing a delay. They’re scheduled to depart for the bubble tomorrow.

Since it’s been stated multiple times that Dallas is highly suspected of bringing the virus into the MLS ‘bubble.’ As far as what will come of the three group stage matches Dallas will miss? That’s all up in the air. They count for regular-season points in the standings, so MLS and team officials will need to cooperate if and when regular-season matches resume later on in the fall.

“Given the impact of the number of positive tests on the club’s ability to train and play competitive matches, we have made the decision to withdraw FC Dallas from the MLS is Back Tournament,” said MLS Commissioner Don Garber. “The health of everyone involved in our return to play has always been our top priority, and we will continue to make decisions consistent with that priority.”

According to ESPN.com, Garber mentioned the need to work with Dallas to reschedule those three matches but more importantly, Garber stated “we feel very strongly that the integrity of the tournament is in place.”

And maybe more importantly, the MLS Players Association approved of the league’s decision. See below.

So for now, the tournament rolls on with the same format as it did when it was released. But as we’ve seen, tomorrow may be a different story.

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Mandatory Credit: Jerome Miron-USA TODAY Sports

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