Nashville SC withdrew from the MLS is Back Tournament on Thursday, reducing the event’s field to 24 teams.
Nashville SC followed FC Dallas in leaving the tournament, with both clubs dropping out due to a high number of positive COVID-19 tests among players and staff members.
Nashville Reports Nine Positive Tests
MLS scheduled Nashville to play the Chicago Fire on Wednesday, July 8. The league postponed the game while it came to a decision with club officials about the team’s future in the tournament.
“We have withdrawn Nashville SC from the MLS is Back Tournament,” MLS commissioner Don Garber said in a statement. “For every decision we make in our return to play, the well-being of our players, staff, officials, and all participants is our top priority.”
Garber noted that the team was unable to practice since arriving in Orlando. The MLS is Back Tournament is taking place at the ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex in Florida.
The withdrawal actually simplifies the tournament draw. When FC Dallas backed out, that left Group B with just three teams. Nashville left the six-team Group A with five teams. The league moved the Fire from Group A to Group B to rebalance the tournament with six, four-team groups.
Nashville initially reported five positive tests when the team arrived in Orlando last week. Since that time, four more players have tested positive for COVID-19.
“In what has been a challenging year, and in an uncharted environment created by the tornado that devastated our city and COVID-19, this is another big disappointing outcome for Nashville SC and its supporters,” Nashville SC CEO Ian Ayre said in a statement. “Our focus now lays on the recovery of our players who have been infected with COVID-19, and on getting our complete traveling party back home safely.”
MLS Tournament Continues Despite Withdrawals
Major League Soccer remains confident that its bubble plan will allow it to hold the remainder of the tournament with few coronavirus-related hiccups. Outside of Dallas and Nashville, there are few reports of positive tests. When MLS announced 13 positive tests earlier this week, most were from Dallas, with one coming from the Columbus Crew.
The tournament began on Wednesday, with Orlando City defeating Inter Miami 2-1 in the opening match. MLS has already rescheduled a number of matches to work around the withdrawals.
Each team will play three matches in the group stage of the tournament, with those games also counting toward the regular-season standings. The top two teams in each group – as well as four, third-placed teams – will then compete in a 16-team knockout stage.
Before the MLS is Back Tournament began, FanDuel Sportsbook listed LAFC as the favorite to win at +500, with Atlanta United (+750) and the Seattle Sounders (+800) close behind.