MLS forces coronavirus-stricken FC Dallas to back out of tournament

An MLS team ravaged by the coronavirus was forced to withdraw from the professional soccer league’s return-to-play tournament Monday in what was believed to be an unprecedented move.

FC Dallas will not participate in the “MLS is Back” tournament — scheduled to begin Wednesday — after 13 players and one coach tested positive for the virus in recent days, the league announced.

It is believed to be the first instance in which a professional league has forbidden a team from joining the other clubs in returning to play amid the coronavirus pandemic. It raises the question of whether other commissioners will follow suit if teams in their leagues are also hit hard by the coronavirus.

“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,” MLS commissioner Don Garber said in a statement.

FC Dallas in a statement said it supported the league’s decision.

“While we’re disappointed, the health and safety of our traveling delegation as well as our league partners is our highest priority,” head coach Luchi Gonzalez said.

The month-long tournament is being held at ESPN’s Disney’s Wide World of Sports Complex in Orlando, Fla., alongside the resumption of the NBA season, in a bubble-like atmosphere aimed at preventing a coronavirus outbreak.

Three Dallas soccer players tested positive for the virus before the team arrived in Florida late last month, and more cases followed. The team has been under quarantine in its hotel rooms since, and is now coordinating a plan to return to Texas, where coronavirus cases have escalated in recent weeks.

MLS said that three other players from two different teams also tested positive after the league conducted 557 player tests. Players are to be tested every other day or the day prior to a game.

No names of the players who tested positive were released.

The development comes as sports leagues nationwide try to resume play even as several states set daily records for coronavirus cases.

Multiple MLB and NBA players have already opted out of their respective seasons, while the Orlando Pride, a professional women’s soccer team, pulled out of its league’s restart tournament on its own accord last month after multiple players and staffers tested positive.

MLS, which has 26 teams, shut down in March because of the virus.

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