All the attention has been on the safety of the bubble MLS has set up at the Walt Disney World Swan and Dolphin Report near Orlando for its 26 teams before and during the MLS is Back Tournament,
scheduled to begin on Wednesday.
But getting MLS teams safely into the bubble from their home markets has become a huge issue in the last week as the Covid-19 outbreak has spread in many
markets. And it underscores the issues MLS teams -- and other sports teams for that matter -- will face if they resume regular travel to away games later in the year.
Several teams have
had to endure multiple delays while waiting for negative test results for Covid-19 to come back, but at least they've been able to rearrange their travel schedules on charter flights and not have to
deal with commercial flights.
All teams were supposed to arrive at least seven days before their first game -- the San Jose Earthquakes, unable to train at home, arrived 16 days before
their opener -- but delays are one reason why Orlando Sentinel reported
on Sunday night that several opening matches in the
MLS is Back Tournament are expected to be postponed.
MLS has reported 14 confirmed positive tests for Covid-19 since the Quakes arrived on June 24, and they were likely all infections
contracted while the individuals were still in their home market. (MLS's next Covid-19 testing report is expected to be released on Monday night.) FC Dallas
has already had to
postpone its opening game against the Vancouver Whitecaps
scheduled for Thursday because 10 of the confirmed cases are reported to be FC Dallas players and another is an FC Dallas assistant
coach and the team is entirely isolated. The only other team to confirm a positive test for Covid-19 is the Columbus Crew,
which announced last Thursday it had one player test positive. The
Crew, on the other hand, has continued to train but held an intrasquad scrimmage on Sunday instead of scrimmaging Minnesota United as previously planned.
The Athletic's Sam Stejskal and
Paul Tenorio reported
on Sunday that Nashville SC
had one player test positive for Covid-19 after the team's
arrival on Friday and four more have subsequently tested positive and are awaiting the result of follow-up tests for confirmation. In the meantime, Nashville SC has not trained since last Tuesday
ahead of its game against Chicago on Wednesday in the opening day's nightcap.
All this came after Nashville SC's flight to Orlando was twice delayed -- first on Wednesday and again on
Thursday reportedly related to Covid-19 testing results.
And at least one team has had to delay its departure to Orlando every day
for the last five days.
Besides Nashville SC and Vancouver, which had multiple “inconclusive” test results and delayed its charter until Monday, two other teams will have
arrived in Orlando less than the minimum of seven days before their opening game MLS set for teams to safely settle in the bubble and for positive cases of Covid-19 to presumably emerge from
infections contracted outside the bubble and be dealt with. Toronto FC
had flights pushed back on Friday (pre-travel testing had not been completed) and Saturday (a member of the
Reds' traveling party "reported experiencing symptoms to the team medical staff") and aren't scheduled to leave until Monday in order to complete another round of testing for the traveling party. That
would leave only four days until their opener against D.C. United.
On Sunday, the Colorado Rapids
announced that they were notified of two presumptive positive Covid-19 results in
their traveling party, forcing the cancellation of their scheduled charter to Orlando. Pending final lab results, the Rapids have delayed their departure until Tuesday -- just five days before their
opener against Real Salt Lake.
(The New York Red Bulls
also delayed their departure, leaving on Saturday after stating a staff member had produced an inconclusive Covid-19 test
result. But at least they had some cushion -- they won't play their first game until next Saturday against Atlanta United -- seven days after their arrival.)