Following six players and four staff members testing positive for COVID-19, the Orlando Pride are withdrawing from the NWSL 2020 Challenge Cup. The tournament, scheduled to begin on Saturday in Salt Lake City, Utah, now has just eight teams participating.
All players and staff are asymptomatic, but the Pride did not feel it was in the best interest of their club, or the Challenge Cup at large, to compete.
“While we were all looking forward to seeing the Pride return to the field, we are unfortunately facing a decision that is necessary and in the best interest for the health of our players and staff,” said Daryl Osbahr, M.D., team doctor for Orlando Pride and chief of sports medicine for Orlando Health. “The decision goes far beyond just the positives, but also taking into consideration roommates or partners.”
CDC guidelines dictate that all players and staff will be isolated for 14 days, while other individuals who may have had close contact will be monitored for symptoms. It is unlikely the Pride would be able to send enough players to the Challenge Cup under these rules.
It is believed that multiple players visiting a bar led to the first positive test, according to The Athletic. Bars have been open in Orlando since June 3.
The decision to no longer partake in the NWSL’s return shines a spotlight on safety concerns for the remaining teams amid a growing number of COVID-19 cases across the country.
“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,” said NWSL Commissioner Lisa Baird. “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.”
Orlando’s removal from the competition will result in a schedule adjustment. Details on the tournament’s revised schedule have yet to be released.