By Ben Wright.
ORLANDO, FL - Nashville SC has been withdrawn from the MLS is Back Tournament. Paul Tenorio of The Athletic was first to report the news, with Speedway Soccer independently confirming. (UPDATE: MLS has since officially announced). Nine of Nashville's players have tested positive for Covid-19 since arriving in Orlando. The cluster of cases prompted MLS to remove Nashville from the competition to ensure the safety of the rest of the league.
“We have withdrawn Nashville SC from theMLS is Back Tournament.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,” said MLS Commissioner Don Garber in the league release. “For every decision we make in our return to play, the wellbeing of our players, staff, officials and all participants is our top priority.” “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,” said Nashville SC CEO Ian Ayre. “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FC Dallas was the first side to be withdrawn from the competition after 11 of their traveling party tested positive. Apart from Nashville and Dallas, the virus seems to be well contained in Orlando. Columbus Crew had one player test positive, with several initial positive tests coming back negative upon retest. Aside from the two outlying clubs, it appears that clubs have done an effective job of limiting their exposure to the virus in market and were able to enter the bubble healthy. Nashville had been a part of Group A, the lone six team group in the tournament. To balance the competition, Chicago Fire will move from Group A to Group B, taking the place of FC Dallas and creating six groups of four teams each.
It's a disappointing and frustrating blow for Nashville SC fans, who watched their side play two matches in Major League Soccer before the coronavirus put a halt to the pandemic. After a four month break, it appeared that Nashville would be back in action in a unique tournament format. With a Concacaf Champions League spot up for grabs, it was an enticing opportunity for an expansion side, whose strong defensive build made them an intriguing side to watch in the tournament.
MLS reportedly plans to resume the 2020 season in-market after the MLS is Back Tournament ends in mid-August. With coronavirus cases rising all over the United States, it remains to be seen how that plan materializes. If the season is able to continue, Nashville will have three regular season matches to make up, as the tournament group stage results will count towards the season.
Yet again, Nashville fans find themselves waiting to watch their team. Hopefully the next attempt will be successful.