COVID-19: Sunday's USL Championship final cancelled after Rowdies' outbreak

Two days after the USL League One final was cancelled because of a COVID-19 outbreak, Sunday's USL Championship final between the Tampa Bay Rowdies and Phoenix Rising was canceled for the same reason.

The USL made the decision after multiple Tampa Bay players tested positive for COVID-19. A day early, it was revealed that Rowdies head coach Neill Collins, assistant coach Kevin Foley and another individual tested positive.

On Friday, the league stated that all Rowdies players, staff and executives then underwent urgent rapid testing at the medical facilities of Major League Baseball’s Tampa Bay Rays, and no other positive tests were confirmed.

That situation changed on Saturday after a second round of testing at the Rays' facilities. Multiple individuals on the Rowdies' covered persons list tested positive for COVID-19.

"The decision has been made for the health and safety of everyone involved after multiple persons on the Tampa Bay Rowdies covered persons list tested positive for COVID-19 upon a second round of rapid testing on Saturday morning at the Tampa Bay Rays' medical facilities," the league said in a statement. "The affected individuals have been immediately isolated at home, are recovering in good spirits under the care of team physicians and infectious disease experts, and all league, local and state health and wellness protocols continue to be followed."

The cancellation is the latest blow to the USL, which overcame a spate of postponements after its restart in July to finish the regular season and get through three rounds of playoffs.

Sunday's game at Al Lang Field was slated to be the first USL game on ESPN. The league signed a three-year deal with ESPN in 2019. Expanded coverage of the regular season included games on ESPN2 and ESPN Deportes as well as all other games on pay streaming service ESPN+.

The USL cancelled the amateur USL League Two season before it started and now the finals of both pro leagues because of COVID-19 outbreaks.

Friday's USL League One final between the Greenville Triumph and Union Omaha was canceled after multiple individuals on Union Omaha’s covered persons list tested positive for COVID-19. Triumph SC was declared the champion on the basis of points per game with 2.1875.  It had a six-point margin over second-place Omaha.

The USL did not declare a champion after the USL Championship final was called off. Instead, Tampa Bay and Phoenix were declared conference champions.

Phoenix finished the regular season with 35 points; Tampa Bay had 33. The Rising's point total included the three points following the decision by the San Diego Loyal to forfeit the game it was leading, 3-1, after the Rising would not remove its star, Junior Flemmings, from the game. Flemmings was later suspended by the USL for six games. Rising agreed with the league to give up hosting rights to the final.
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