Major League Soccer is Back tournament may suffer a major setback if the delegates of MLS and the soccer stars continue to test positive for the dreaded coronavirus. The tournament ought to commence on July 8, two days from now, but that might not happen based on the latest COVID-19 test results.
In the last week, 11 FC Dallas players and staff had tested positive for the virus. As at last check, 14 players, including one from the Columbus Crew and two non-players had tested positive for the virus.
All these happened from June 27 to date as the soccer stars and MLS delegates started arriving at the Swan and Dolphin Resort in Orlando, Florida, where they will all be camped throughout the tournament. Prior to their arrival, the number of confirmed cases in Orange County where the resort is located has remained in double digits consistently. As at last check, there were about 1,166 confirmed cases in the area.
Even around the ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex, Disney World, Osceola County, where all the matches are expected to take place is bedevilled by double digits of confirmed coronavirus cases on the daily. In fact, on Saturday, 255 new cases were confirmed around the area.
In the last two days, two MLS delegates have been confirmed positive out of 1,191 people that were tested for the virus. This has brought panic on most of the MLS delegates and has also forced Toronto FC and Colorado Rapids to postpone their arrival to the resort.
Recall that the regular Major League Soccer was suspended in March 2020 due to the deadly coronavirus pandemic. After over two months, the board of the league decided to turn the league in form of the FIFA World Cup which should begin from July 8 to August 11, starting with the group stage, then knockout stage, quarter-finals, semi-finals and finals.
This new format was to ensure that the 54 matches are played in not more than 34 days, in a safe and controlled environment like ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex. According to the plans released by MLS prior to June 27 when the soccer teams and delegates started arriving in Orlando, all the players, non-players and MLS delegates would be tested on arrival and every two days afterwards.
MLS deputy commissioner and president Mark Abbott said: “In consultation with infectious disease experts and government health authorities, MLS developed comprehensive health and safety protocols that include pre-travel testing, as well as isolation upon arrival until additional screening tests have been completed.
“These protocols have led to the early identification and isolation of infected individuals who likely contracted the virus prior to travelling. Those individuals were promptly identified, and separated from other tournament participants and staff so that they can receive care and ensure that we minimize the risk of transmission to other participants.”
Despite the assurance the MLS board has given about the “efficient system” the league body has put in place for the successful commencement and completion of the tournament, Coronavirus concerns have forced Dallas Vs Vancouver match to be postponed and more could be postponed in the coming days if the whole tournament is not cancelled or not moved to another venue before July 8.