Covid-19: Delays to Orlando start to impact MLS is Back Tournament

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.)

4 comments about "Covid-19: Delays to Orlando start to impact MLS is Back Tournament".
  1. Hugh McCracken, July 6, 2020 at 5:02 a.m.

    Are we forever blowing bubbles?

  2. Juris Jauntirans, July 6, 2020 at 6:57 a.m.

    Florida today is the worst place for a sport to try to open it's season. It is the main hot spot in the US.

  3. beautiful game replied, July 6, 2020 at 9:48 a.m.

    It appears that the MLS gurus picked FL to re-open the season in a location which has not only become a Covid-19 hotspot, but is a sauna in the summer time. Tunnel-vision planning by MLS makes no sense. This project needs to be delayed and perhaps cancelled until March, 2021.  

  4. Guy Walling, July 6, 2020 at 8:46 a.m.

    This whole country is a hotspot, not just Florida! Without any leadership in this country we are going backwards! The entire world is laughing at us. We have a cult leader as president who doesn't care about anyone, but himself. How does everyone think that while we can't get it together enough as a country to bring Covid cases down and stop people from dying, we can resume sports? It just isn't going to work! If Trump is making America Great Again then why are we dead last in fighting the spread of Covid? Why can't we restart soccer like other Leagues? It's because no one is in charge and no one seems to even realize it. 

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