(Reuters) - FC Dallas will not compete in the Orlando-based MLS Is Back Tournament that is set to begin this week after a number of their players tested positive for COVID-19, Major League Soccer commissioner Don Garber said on Monday.
Ten Dallas players and one member of the club’s technical staff tested positive for the virus since the team’s June 27 arrival at Disney’s Wide World of Sports Complex for the month-long World Cup-style tournament.
Dallas were scheduled to open the tournament on Thursday against the Vancouver Whitecaps but MLS said on Saturday that the game would be postponed as the Canadian side’s departure for Orlando had been delayed after two inconclusive COVID-19 tests.
“Given the impact of the number of positive tests on the club’s ability to train and play competitive matches, we have made the decision to withdraw FC Dallas from the MLS is Back Tournament,” Garber told Reuters in a phone interview. “As of today we have tested 550 players that are already in Orlando and we had 13 positive tests and that is a very low percentage.
“Ten of those 13 are from one team so clearly we had to remove Dallas from the tournament.”
The FC Dallas decision comes on the same day the number of confirmed U.S. coronavirus deaths exceeded 130,000, with Florida reporting another daily record of new cases with 11,000.
Despite the spike of positive cases in Florida, Garber insisted that players and staff will be safer in Orlando than other areas.
“We have a very strict medical protocol in place,” he said.
Teams began arriving in Orlando last week and will all be housed in one hotel that will have no other guests.
Following the FC Dallas withdrawal the league added another level of safety protocols that will see staff at the hotel tested for COVID-19.
Garber would not say if MLS would cancel the entire event if another team was forced out of the tournament but noted player health and safety remained the number one concern.
“We have not said it will be X number of teams before we make any decision to change our plans,” he said.
“But if anything should happen that we believe would threaten the health and safety of our players and staff then we will make the decision to not go forward with the tournament.”
Reporting by Steve Keating in Toronto. Additional reporting Frank Pingue. Editing by Aurora Ellis and Richard Pullin
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