Orlando Pride pull out of NWSL tournament after positive COVID-19 tests

NEW YORK (Reuters) - The Orlando Pride will not play in the National Women’s Soccer League (NWSL) Challenge Cup, which is set to kick off on Saturday, after players and staff members tested positive for COVID-19.

All those who tested positive were asymptomatic, the team said, and will be isolated for at least 14 days in accordance with health and safety guidelines.

“This was obviously a difficult and disappointing outcome for our players, our staff and fans, however this is a decision that was made in order to protect the health of all involved in the Challenge Cup,” said Orlando Pride Executive Vice President Amanda Duffy.

The NWSL aims to be the first team-sport league in the U.S. to resume competition since the coronavirus outbreak prompted widespread lockdowns in March, with the month-long, 25-match Challenge Cup to kick off in suburban Salt Lake City, Utah.

“Our thoughts are with those players and staff fighting this infection,” said NWSL Commissioner Lisa Baird. “We’re all obviously disappointed, but in the current environment, this is a situation that we have prepared for and we will now adjust our plans.”

The club’s newly renovated Sylvan Lake Park practice facility in suburban Orlando has also been closed.

“We are unfortunately facing a decision that is necessary and in the best interest for the health of our players and staff,” Orlando Pride team doctor Daryl Osbahr said.

Some teams from MLB and the NHL closed their Florida facilities last week after players tested positive for COVID-19, as new cases in the state surge.

The Pride team was scheduled to depart for Utah on Wednesday, according to the Orlando Sentinel.

Men’s Major League Soccer, along with the NBA, is expected to resume its 2020 season at Orlando’s Walt Disney World this summer, while the WNBA plans to carry out its season at a single site in Florida.

Reporting by Amy Tennery; Editing by Ken Ferris