The Orlando Pride are withdrawing from the NWSL Challenge Cup, which is set to start in Utah this weekend, due to positive COVID-19 cases within their club.
The team announced the news Monday, revealing there are positive tests among both staff and players who were asymptomatic. The NWSL said that six players and four staff members tested positive and will be re-tested, per protocol, to confirm the results.
Pride executive vice president Amanda Duffy said in a statement:
“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. While we were all excited to see the 2020 Pride on the field this weekend, our priority is now making sure our players and staff safely recover and providing any support wherever and however possible.”
Daryl Osbahr, M.D, the Pride team doctor and chief of medicine for Orlando Health, said it was “logistically impossible” to participate given the protocols and timelines for contract tracing. Players will receive medical attention and will be isolated for at least 14 days.
They were still in Orlando on Monday morning and planning to leave for Utah on Wednesday, per the Orlando Sentinel. The team’s newly renovated Sylvan Lake Park practice facility in the city’s suburban area is also now closed.
Yahoo Sports contributor Caitlin Murray reported that the rash of positive tests stems from a trip to a bar by several players on the team, and that the veterans around the league are not happy and don’t want the Challenge Cup derailed because of it.
Speaking to a few sources, it appears #NWSL players were supposed to self-isolate but a group of younger Orlando Pride players went out to nightclubs and bars, which have been open in Florida. Transmission was determined not to be through training, which was the main concern.— Caitlin Murray (@caitlinmurr) June 22, 2020
Multiple sources from throughout the #NWSL tell me veterans are angry and don't want the tournament derailed because of this. They chalk it up to the actions of players who didn't follow the rules in place. Will follow up as I get more info.— Caitlin Murray (@caitlinmurr) June 22, 2020
NWSL will adjust schedule; all teams make playoffs
The month-long Challenge Cup is a tournament that was supposed to consist of all nine NWSL teams, each of which was scheduled to play four matches to determine seeding. The results were then meant determine which eight move into the postseason.
With the Pride out, every team competing will now move on. Orlando was scheduled to face the Chicago Red Stars on Saturday to open the tournament. The schedule will now be revised.
Rosters have not yet been released, and some players, many of whom are USWNT stars, have said already they will not participate.
Carli Loyd announced she wouldn’t be able to play with Sky Blue FC due to an injury suffered while at home training. OL Reign star Megan Rapinoe will miss the tournament due to concerns over the virus, while Pride forward Alex Morgan was already out of training and the tournament after giving birth to her daughter, Charlie, in May. Christen Press is also reportedly missing the event.
Sports leagues likely watching NWSL plan
The NWSL will be the first team sports league in the United States to play during the pandemic when games start Saturday. Other leagues will likely be watching how they return and what can be improved upon for their own plans.
Orlando being the team to withdraw is even more notable since the NBA is planning to resume its season there in late July. Even though it’s a single-site plan, the bubble can pop in even a small way.
Positive COVID-19 cases are rising in all of Florida, where MLS and the WNBA also plan to play next month, and Orlando had another day with a record number of cases.
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