FC Dallas will not participate in the MLS is Back Tournament following the high number of positive tests for the coronavirus within the club, Major League Soccer announced on Monday.
Since arriving to ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex on June 27 outside of Orlando, Florida, the club has had 10 players and one member of its technical staff test positive. The team has been under quarantine since then, preventing it from training.
The club had three positive tests before arriving to Florida. It was not clear if those players who first tested positive traveled with the team.
Speaking to ESPN's Tom Marshall, MLS commissioner Don Garber called it a tough but ultimately right decision on FC Dallas.
"It was our view that with as many Dallas players that have tested positive, they have to go into quarantine, it would not allow them to train and would put them into a position where they wouldn't be able to compete in the tournament and do so in a way that would be within our protocol," Garber said. "It was a tough decision to make, but one we felt was the right decision for the MLS is Back Tournament."
Of the 557 players currently in Orlando, 13 total players have been confirmed positive for the coronavirus, 10 of those being FC Dallas players and the remaining three coming from two other clubs.
Garber said the league remains focused on staging the tournament, set to run from July 8 through Aug. 11, with the remaining 25 teams on site.
"In the event that we have an outbreak of the virus amongst our teams then we'll make the decision to not go forward with the tournament, but until that time, me and our clubs and the league leadership are very focused on going forward with a very close eye on the safety of the players," Garber said.
FC Dallas was scheduled to play the Vancouver Whitecaps on Thursday in the opening match of the tournament, but that game was then postponed.
"As we continue to focus on the well-being of our players, coaches and staff who are in isolation in Orlando, we understand it is not in their best interests to compete at this time," said FC Dallas coach Luchi Gonzalez. "While we're disappointed, the health and safety of our traveling delegation as well as our league partners is our highest priority."
"We absolutely agree with the league's decision to withdraw FC Dallas from the MLS is Back Tournament out of safety concerns for our players and staff," said FC Dallas president Dan Hunt. "We're looking forward to resuming the 2020 season once the entire club is healthy and in position to play competitive matches at the highest level."
With FC Dallas' exit, Garber said it will work with the club once the tournament is complete and if the 2020 regular season resumes.
"We will have to work with Dallas on replacing the three regular-season games that they'll miss. But we feel very strongly that the integrity of the tournament is in place," Garber said. "We knew all along that we're going to have to manage a unique dynamic down in Florida, one in which we'll have to be mindful of having to reschedule games due to weather and other things as they come up."
In a statement, the MLS Players Association said: "The removal of FC Dallas from competition in Orlando is a reminder of how difficult the circumstances involving returning to work remains across all sports amidst this pandemic. The players and staff from FC Dallas worked incredibly hard over the last few months to be ready to take the field, but removing the team from the competition is both responsible and necessary."