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OPINION: MLS Is Back Tournament really shouldn’t have been played; at least not in Orlando.

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With the massive outbreaks in Florida, especially in Orlando, is it a wise idea for the league to even play the tournament?

Ashle Norling/E Pluribus Loonum

Short Answer: No.

Long Answer: It’s a bit more complicated. Let’s dive on in.

Quick background, the tournament was announced by MLS on June 10th with the initial draw happening the following day. All 26 teams were to travel to Florida (specifically the ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex outside Orlando) to play three group stage matches followed by a 16 team single knockout tournament. This is where it gets immensely more complicated.

First up is the outbreaks that Florida had at the time of the tournament. Through June 10th the state had 67,371 cases and by the 24th they had 114,018 positive cases and was constantly shattering it’s daily records. Compounding this was towards the end of the month WWE, who has based themselves out of Orlando since the outbreak began, had 30+ cases just in it’s own company. As of the writing of this piece (July 15th, 2020) Florida has the third most cases in the country with 291,621 cases, behind New York (with 407,873 cases and the largest city in the country) and California (with 340,631 cases and a population 83% larger than Florida).

The issues were only compounded when FC Dallas turned out to have 11 confirmed cases shortly after showing up, then subsequently withdrew from the tournament a few days after their first match against Vancouver Whitecaps was postponed. The next victim of the COVID-19 outbreak was Nashville SC, who also withdrew from the tournament after nine players tested positive and their opening match with Chicago was also postponed.

While no other teams have withdrawn from the tournament the D.C. United/Toronto FC match was postponed by two days, just minutes before the originals matches kick off time, after one player tested positive. Also two days prior to Minnesota United’s tournament opener against Sporting Kansas City, SKC also had a player confirmed to have tested positive. That match would go on as scheduled with the Loons defeating Sporting 2-1 on the back of a Kevin Molino goal in stoppage time.

At the end of the day the tournament should have been postponed and moved or even outright cancelled when 10 players and one staff member from FCD were confirmed with COVID. When 9 more people with Nashville also tested positive that really should have been the end of the line, but instead Major League Soccer pressed on. After the withdrawals of Dallas and Nashville they would move Chicago to Group B, meaning each group had four teams playing three games, which does line up nicer than the group of six and five groups of four as originally planned.

While yes it’s nice to have soccer back the bubble idea doesn’t seem to be working as effective as needed to keep all players and staff healthy. And my concern for the health and well-being of those involved is priority number one. While I don’t agree with playing the tournament I will savor the season while it’s here because I really don’t see the full season being played here in 2020.

MNUFC will play their second tournament match on Friday night at 9:30 PM against Real Salt Lake at the ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex. The match will be televised on ESPN, ESPN Deportes, and in Canada on TSN.

Do you think the MLS Is Back Tournament should have been played? Sound off in the comments below.