July 9 (Reuters) - Nashville SC became the second club to be removed from the “MLS Is Back Tournament” after nine players tested positive for COVID-19, Major League Soccer said on Thursday.
FC Dallas was dropped from the Orlando-based tournament on Monday after 10 players and a staff member tested positive.
Nashville followed Dallas out of the month-long World Cup style competition before playing a single match when the positive tests prevented the team from training.
The first-year club arrived at Disney’s Wide World of Sports Complex on July 1, saying they had met all the mandated protocols established by the league as well as local and national health authorities.
Despite the precautions, one player tested positive upon arrival at the tournament hotel, and another eight players tested positive a few days later.
“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,” said MLS Commissioner Don Garber in a statement.
“For every decision we make in our return to play, the wellbeing of our players, staff, officials and all participants is our top priority.”
The removal of Nashville SC is another blow to MLS efforts to restart the season which was shutdown in mid-March by the novel coronavirus outbreak.
Two clubs have been removed, multiple games rescheduled or postponed and several top players including LAFC’s Carlos Vela, the league’s reigning most valuable player, have opted out of the tournament over worries about the virus.
Those concerns have been heightened by the surge of positive COVID-19 cases in Florida. More than 132,000 Americans have been killed by the virus, according to a Reuters tally on Wednesday.
MLS on Wednesday became the first North American professional men’s league to return to action since the pandemic disrupted the sports calendar with Orlando City beating Inter Miami 2-1 in a match played without spectators.
Nashville SC had originally been scheduled to take on the Chicago Fire on Wednesday but that match was postponed along with Thursday’s FC Dallas v Vancouver Whitecaps game.
The Whitecaps announced on Tuesday that five members of the team would not make the trip to Orlando due to coronavirus concerns. (Reporting by Steve Keating in Toronto, Editing by Ed Osmond)