FC Dallas dropped out of the MLS is Back Tournament on Monday, becoming the first professional team in the United States to exclude itself from a league’s return-to-play plan.
The club made the decision after 10 players and one staff member tested positive for the coronavirus after arriving at Disney’s Wide World of Sports Complex near Orlando, Florida.
Quarantine Prevents FC Dallas from Training
FC Dallas accounts for most of Major League Soccer’s positive tests. Of 557 players in Orlando, only 13 have tested positive for COVID-19: the 10 from Dallas, along with two from Nashville and one from Columbus.
As a result, FC Dallas is quarantined by itself and has been unable to train. That, combined with the size of the team’s outbreak, led to the decision not to play in the tournament.
“The decision to have them not participate in the tournament is in the best interests of everyone, of the Dallas players and the other 25 teams, and allows us to continue to manage the health and safety of our players while continuing to go forward with our plan,” MLS Commissioner Don Garber told The Associated Press.
MLS scheduled FC Dallas and the Vancouver Whitecaps to face off in an opening match on Thursday, but postponed that game before the team decided to withdraw entirely.
“As we continue to focus on the well-being of our players, coaches, and staff who are in isolation in Orlando, we understand it is not in their best interests to compete at this time,” FC Dallas coach Luchi Gonzalez said in a statement. “While we’re disappointed, the health and safety of our traveling delegation, as well as our league partners, is our highest priority.”
MLS to Release New Tournament Schedule
The withdrawal will cause additional scheduling issues if the MLS season continues beyond the tournament. Each team’s three group stage games during the tournament will count toward their regular-season standings.
“We will have to work with Dallas on replacing the three regular-season games that they’ll miss. But we feel very strongly that the integrity of the tournament is in place,” Garber told ESPN. “We knew all along that we’re going to have to manage a unique dynamic down in Florida, one in which we’ll have to be mindful of having to reschedule games due to weather and other things as they come up.”
FC Dallas landed in Group B of the tournament along with the Seattle Sounders, Vancouver Whitecaps, and San Jose Earthquakes. MLS is creating a new schedule for the tournament without Dallas. Most likely, Group B will simply continue with just three teams, though it might be possible to transfer a club from the six-team Group A to better balance the pools.
The 25 teams remaining in the MLS is Back Tournament will begin competing on Wednesday. The tournament will wrap up with the final on Aug. 11. FanDuel Sportsbook pegs LAFC as the +500 favorite to win the event, ahead of Atlanta United (+750) and the Seattle Sounders (+800).