The National Women’s Soccer League wanted to be the first in sports to restart their season but it isn’t going as smoothly as they had hoped. Just a week shy of the first game of the NWSL Challenge Cup tournament, it has been announced that one of their teams won’t be competing because of new COVID-19 cases. The Orlando Pride has withdrawn from the tournament due to six players and four staff members testing positive for COVID-19 according to a news release. The names of those diagnosed have not been released.
“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,” Orlando Pride executive vice president Amanda Duffy said in a statement. “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.”
It’s Suspected That the Players Were Exposed During a Visit to an Orlando Bar
A NSWL source told The Athletic’s Meg Linehan that it’s speculated that the players contracted the virus while visiting a bar in Orlando. Bars have been open in Florida since early June. After the players visited the bar, they were tested again.
Everyone who tested positive has received medical attention and will be quarantining for 14 days according to the team’s doctor and member of the NWSL medical task force Dr. Daryl Osbahr. People that have been in contact with the players and staffers have been notified as well.
“The decision goes far beyond just the positives, but also taking into consideration roommates or partners,” Osbahr said in a statement Monday. “I commend the club for its diligence and reaction following the initial positive test, as well as how the safety of players and staff was prioritized during this difficult and uncertain time. However the guidelines and process that are put in place, including the important protocols and timelines for contact tracing, make it logistically impossible for the club to participate in the Challenge Cup in Utah.”
The NWSL Cup Tournament Will Begin June 27
Despite the Pride having to back out of the tournament, the show must go on. The NWSL Challenge Cup will take place in the Salt Lake City, Utah starting on June 27. Instead of the Pride playing the Chicago Red Stars for the first game, the Portland Thorns and North Carolina Courage will match up.
“The health and safety of our players and staff is our number one 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.”