Stadium Employee Contracts Coronavirus, But MLS Champion Seattle Sounders Will Play Home Match Saturday Anyway

The reigning MLS Cup holders, the Seattle Sounders, will face the Columbus Crew at CenturyLink Field despite coronavirus death toll in Washington rising to 11.

Seattle Sounders players celebrate.
Abbie Parr / Getty Images

The reigning MLS Cup holders, the Seattle Sounders, will face the Columbus Crew at CenturyLink Field despite coronavirus death toll in Washington rising to 11.

The defending Major League Soccer champion Seattle Sounders will go ahead with their home match at CenturyLink Field against the Columbus Crew on Saturday, despite the state of Washington seeing 31 new coronavirus cases between Wednesday and Thursday — including the 11th death in the state from the rapidly spreading illness. The match will be played despite a stadium employee who recently sold concessions receiving a positive test for the coronavirus, according to a Seattle Times report.

All 11 deaths in Washington have occurred in King County, where Seattle is located, according to a KIRO TV News report. Eight of the coronavirus deaths have been linked to a single elder care facility, Life Care Center. Seattle Mayor Jenny Durkan and King County Executive Dow Constantine both signed emergency proclamations on Thursday, and Washington Governor Jay Inslee declared a statewide state of emergency to deal with the coronavirus crisis.

Though Inslee issued a statement advising Washington residents against attending “non-essential congregations of people that are not necessary for their well-being,” the Sounders announced that their Saturday match against the Crew — the second game of the 2020 MLS season for both teams, with both looking for a second straight win — will go ahead as scheduled, according to a report by SB Nation.

Fans attend CenturyLink Field.
CenturyLink Field in Seattle. Otto Greule Jr. / Getty Images

The game will also go ahead despite a report that a stadium employee who sold concessions at a Seattle Dragons XFL football game on February 22 has tested positive for the coronavirus. The Dragons and Sounders share the stadium.

The worker showed no symptoms during the game, and has not returned to the stadium since that date, according to The Seattle Times report.

“We’ve determined that the risk of infection to attendees from this person was low,” King County public health department spokesperson James Apa told The Seattle Times.

The Sounders, in announcing that Saturday’s match would be played as scheduled, said that “expanded sanitation procedures” would be in effect for the game, and additional hand sanitizer stations would be in place for the match. A club spokesperson said that postponing the game was considered, but the option of playing the match in front of an empty stadium was not on the table, according to the SB Nation report.

In Italy, where a reported 148 people have already died from the coronavirus infection, most of the matches in the country’s top-flight Serie A that were scheduled to take place in the country’s hard-hit northern regions have been postponed, and the country’s sports ministry has proposed playing at least the next month of matches in closed stadiums, with no fans permitted to attend.