Breaking News — The NWSL Challenge Cup marks the beginning of domestic sports returning to America. However, the tournament, which is slated to begin this Saturday, will be without one of its nine clubs. The Orlando Pride have officially withdrawn from the Challenge Cup.
The withdraw is only five days out from the start of the tournament. Orlando announced that six players and four staff members tested positive for COVID-19, the illness plaguing the world. It put the United States in a pandemic and halted the sports world. Now, the Pride will have to wait for their return to soccer.
But soccer is minimal right now. According to the Pride, all members who tested positive are asymptomatic.
“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 EVP Amanda Duffy said. “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.”
The NWSL has not made plans to cancel or postpone the tournament as of yet. However, on June 18, the league announced a player tested positive for COVID-19. It hasn’t been indicated if that positive test connects with the Pride’s players and staff.
“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,” Daryl Osbahr, M.D., team doctor for Orlando Pride and chief of sports medicine for Orlando Health, said.
Unsure what is happening, but the announcement that six Orlando Pride players have tested positive has been deleted. Trying to figure out what is going on.
— Anne M. Peterson (@AnnieMPeterson) June 22, 2020
Speculation about the return to Sports
As mentioned, there is no indication that the upcoming NWSL Challenge Cup will be cancelled. However, the tournament will have a major shift with Orlando withdrawing.
The Pride were set to play the Chicago Red Stars, Portland Thorns, North Carolina Courage and Sky Blue FC in the preliminary rounds. Now, the league will have to shuffle matches due to the loss of a club. Each club is supposed to feature in four preliminary matches.
NWSL Commissioner Lisa Baird said that her thoughts are with those affected and the entire Pride club. “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,” Baird said in a press release from the league.
Meanwhile, MLS, the second league set to return to action, has also been faced with positive tests. First, a player from D.C. United tested positive. Shortly after, a player for Atlanta United FC tested positive for COVID-19.
As for the Pride, the club announced that all players and staff have been notified of the positive tests. Potentially roommates of those tested positive will be subjected to testing, just in case.
The club also announced that no player or staff tested positive interacted with anyone part of Orlando City SC or Orlando City B.
In addition, rosters for the Challenge Cup were supposed to be unveiled at 4 p.m. EST on Monday. However, no rosters have been made available by the league or clubs.