Nashville SC Pulls Out Of ‘MLS Is Back’ Tournament After Nine Players Test Positive For COVID-19

Daniel Lovitz #2 of the Nashville SC moves with the ball against Brooks Lennon #11 of the Atlanta United.
Brett Carlsen / Getty Images

Nashville SC has pulled out of Major League Soccer’s “MLS Is Back” tournament after nine players have tested positive for the coronavirus, ESPN reported.

Nashville had been scheduled to play against the Chicago Fire on July 8, the opening day of the tournament that was to herald the return of Major League Soccer after being sidelined for months due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The tourney is being held without fans at the ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex at Walt Disney World in Florida, with all of the teams and their support staff staying in the same hotels, and all games being played on the same few fields.

Jose Andres Martinez #8 of Philadelphia Union and Maximiliano Moralez #10 of New York City FC fight for a header during the first half of the MLS is Back Tournament at ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex.
  Douglas P. DeFelice / Getty Images

However, the Nashville-Chicago game was postponed the day before, as the league tried to figure out how to respond to the news that so many Nashville players had tested positive.

On Thursday, MLS Commissioner Don Garber announced that the team simply can’t compete.

“We have withdrawn Nashville SC from the MLS is Back Tournament.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,” Garber said.

Similarly, in a statement posted on the team’s website, Nashville SC CEO Ian Ayre noted that it’s been a challenging year for the city of Nashville and for its soccer team, but that the players’ health remains its top priority.

“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,” Ayre said, adding that once the players have been medically cleared to resume play, they’ll return for the latter half of the season “post Orlando.”

As previously reported by The Inquisitr, the “MLS Is Back” tournament is being treated as both a tournament and as part of the regular season. All wins and losses accrued during the tourney will count toward the team’s regular-season record. Further, the league intends, in the meantime, to continue its season in some form or another after the Orlando event concludes in August.

Nashville’s withdrawal follows the news that FC Dallas has also had to withdraw due to players testing positive for the coronavirus. With two teams out, there are now only 24 teams competing — as opposed to the original 26 — and the league has had to shuffle the brackets around in order to accommodate the new playing field. The tournament now consists of six groups of four teams, and Chicago has been moved from Group A to Group B.

Meanwhile, play continues at the tournament, with Philadelphia Union having beaten NYC FC, 1-0, earlier Thursday.