Soccer

Orlando Pride withdraws from NWSL Challenge Cup after positive COVID tests

The NWSL's Orlando Pride said those in question were all asymptomatic, adding "it would be in the best interest of the health and safety of the players, the staff and the rest of the league that the Pride voluntarily withdraw."

Club says those in question are asymptomatic

The Orlando Pride of the National Women's Soccer League has withdrawn from the league's challenge cup after members of the club's squad and staff tested positive for COVID-19. (@ORLPride/Twitter)

As the NBA and Major League Soccer continue their preparations to resume play in Florida, the league slated to be first out of the gate was forced to regroup Monday in the wake of positive COVID-19 tests in the Sunshine State.

The Orlando Pride withdrew from the NWSL Challenge Cup, set to start Saturday in Utah, after six players and four staff members tested positive for COVID-19. The number and breakdown of those affected was provided by the National Women's Soccer League.

While the women's soccer tournament is to be played some 3,000 kilometres away in Utah, Orlando is the destination for both the NBA and MLS, who plan to set up shop in the Disney complex next month

The Toronto Raptors were scheduled to fly to Fort Myers on Monday to continue training before moving to the Orlando area in early July.

Orlando, whose roster includes Canadian internationals Erin McLeod and Shelina Zadorsky, was due to play the Chicago Red Stars on Day 1 of the NWSL tournament in Herriman, Utah, near Salt Lake City.

The Pride said those affected were asymptomatic, adding "it would be in the best interest of the health and safety of the players, the staff and the rest of the league that the Pride voluntarily withdraw."

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The NWSL said the tournament will go ahead with eight teams.

"The health and safety of our players and staff is our No. 1 priority and our thoughts are with those players and staff fighting this infection, as well as the entire club in Orlando that have been impacted as a result," NWSL commissioner Lisa Baird said in a statement.

"We're all obviously disappointed, but in the current environment, this is a situation that we have prepared for and we will now adjust our plans and schedules to reflect the circumstances."

'Logistically impossible'

Daryl Osbahr, the Pride's team doctor, called the decision to pull out of the tournament "necessary and in the best interest for the health of our players and staff."

"The decision goes far beyond just the positives, but also taking into consideration roommates or partners," he added.

The league said a second round of tests will be conducted to confirm the initial result. Osbahr, meanwhile, said "important protocols" and timelines for contact tracing made it "logistically impossible" for the club to participate.

The club said the affected players and staff have received medical attention and will be isolated for at least 14 days. Those who may have had close contact with the team members, including housemates, have been notified and are being monitored for symptoms and will continue to undergo additional COVID-19 testing.

The Pride said those in question had not had any direct interaction with any players or coaching staff from Orlando City SC, the men's team which is preparing for the MLS tournament scheduled to start July 8.

Pride closes training ground, Florida cases rise

The Pride's training ground, which is 70 kilometres from the Orlando City training ground, has been closed and will be sterilized.

Florida's COVID cases have been rising in recent days, spiking on Saturday with some 4,700 new cases for state residents, according to the Florida Department of Health, Division of Disease Control and Health Protection. The number dropped Sunday to some 2,800, according to the state figures.

The NHL's Tampa Bay Lightning closed its training facilities last week and sent everyone home after three players and additional staff members tested positive.

A rise in positive tests last week in Florida caused MLB to close all 30 training camps for deep cleaning and disinfecting. The Philadelphia Phillies announced Friday that five players had tested positive for COVID-19 and a person familiar with the process, speaking on condition of anonymity, told the Associated Press that 40 players and team employees had tested positive as of noon ET Sunday.

Florida was quick to open its doors to sports despite the pandemic, with both the WWE and UFC staging shows without fans.

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