Nashville SC has withdrawn from Major League Soccer’s MLS is Back tournament in Florida after nine players tested positive for the coronavirus, the league announced Thursday.
Nashville is the second team to withdraw from the tournament. FC Dallas had to pull out after 10 players and a coach tested positive for COVID-19.
“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. “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 SC was playing in its first season in MLS. The team dropped its first two matches of the season before the league shut down on March 12 because of the coronavirus pandemic.
Nashville arrived in the Orlando area for the tournament on July 3. One player tested positive upon arrival, and eight others tested positive over the next few days.
Nashville was originally scheduled to play the Fire on Wednesday, but that game was postponed.
Because of Nashville’s withdrawal, the Fire will move to Group B with the San Jose Earthquakes, Seattle Sounders FC and Vancouver Whitecaps FC. The Fire had been in Group A.
“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,” team CEO Ian Ayre said in a statement. “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.”
The league revised its tournament schedule to reflect Nashville’s withdrawal, first reported by The Athletic. The 24 teams playing in the tournament are divided into six groups of four teams for the group stage.
The World Cup-style tournament is being played at ESPN’s Wide World of Sports complex at Walt Disney World. Teams are sequestered in two resorts and subject to rigorous virus testing.
The group stage of the tournament, which opened Wednesday night with Orlando City’s 2-1 victory over Inter Miami, runs 16 consecutive days. The results of the preliminary round count toward the regular season.