Major League Soccer officially sent Nashville SC out of the season-resuming tournament on Thursday, after the team carried COVID-19 cases into the tournament bubble and nine players tested positive.
The league said in a statement that Nashville has been unable to practice since arriving in Orlando last Friday. The team will remain quarantined in Orlando until all of the players who tested positive are healthy again.
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Nashville is the second team to be forced to withdraw, after FC Dallas exited on Monday. Dallas had nine players and one coach test positive. The virus has yet to spread to any teams that did not bring it into the bubble, and if that remains the case, the tournament should be able to proceed.
Nashville, one of this year’s two expansion teams, was scheduled to play the Union on July 14 in the teams’ second group stage game. MLS overhauled the schedule for that group and other teams in the tournament, moving Chicago out of Group A to take Dallas’ place in Group B. Because Group A originally had six teams, the shuffle means that all six groups have four teams each.
The Union will now play Inter Miami at 10:30 p.m., Tuesday, instead of on July 20; and play Orlando City, the other team in Group A, at 8 p.m., July 20.
Orlando beat Miami, 2-1, in the tournament’s opening game Wednesday night.
“We got a chance to get a glimpse of what they [Miami] are about and how they’re looking,” Union defender Mark McKenzie said Thursday’s 1-0 win over New York City FC. “In terms of our approach, we’re going in to get three points, just the same as we came into for this game today. We’re ready for whatever challenge is ahead of us.”
None of the teams in Group B have played a game. The first was to be FC Dallas vs. the Vancouver Whitecaps on Thursday night, but that game was postponed after Dallas’ virus outbreak was confirmed. The Seattle Sounders and San Jose Earthquakes are scheduled to play at 9 p.m., Friday.
Chicago, an Eastern Conference team, is now in a Western Conference group. Nashville, a Western Conference team, was in an Eastern Conference group.
MLS said that Chicago and Nashville will remain in the East if regular-season games are played after the tournament ends. Nashville’s stay will be temporary but could become permanent down the road. The league has three western markets coming in as expansion teams: Austin (2021), St. Louis (2022), and Sacramento (2022). Charlotte will join the East next year.
Nashville’s exit allowed MLS to simplify the qualification process for the tournament’s knockout rounds. Now, the top two teams in each group and the four best third-place finishers overall will move on, similar to the system used in many international events.
Tuesday: New York City FC vs. Orlando City, 8 p.m. (TUDN); Union vs. Inter Miami, 10:30 p.m. (TUDN)
July 20: Inter Miami vs. New York City FC, 9 a.m. (ESPN, ESPN Deportes); Union vs. Orlando City, 8 p.m. (TUDN)
TUDN’s broadcasts are in Spanish on TV. An English-language broadcast is available for free at twitter.com/MLS, and via the SAP on your remote control through some providers.
Friday: Seattle Sounders vs. San Jose Earthquakes, 9 p.m. (ESPN, ESPN Deportes)
Tuesday: Chicago Fire vs. Seattle Sounders, 9 a.m., (ESPN, ESPN Deportes)
Wednesday: Vancouver Whitecaps vs. San Jose Earthquakes, 10:30 p.m. (TUDN)
July 19: Chicago Fire vs. San Jose Earthquakes, 8 p.m. (FS1, TUDN);
Seattle Sounders vs. Vancouver Whitecaps, 10:30 p.m. (FS1, TUDN)