August 15, 2020

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Major League Soccer teams head to Florida, albeit in stop-start fashion

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Toronto FC pushed back its departure to Florida for the MLS is Back Tournament to Saturday, saying more time was needed to complete pre-travel COVID-19 testing. Toronto FC's Terrence Boyd, left, and Vancouver Whitecaps' Scott Sutter vie for the ball during the second half of an MLS soccer game in Vancouver on Friday May 31, 2019. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck

Toronto FC pushed back its departure to Florida for the MLS is Back Tournament to Saturday, saying more time was needed to complete pre-travel COVID-19 testing. Toronto FC's Terrence Boyd, left, and Vancouver Whitecaps' Scott Sutter vie for the ball during the second half of an MLS soccer game in Vancouver on Friday May 31, 2019. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck

TORONTO - MLS teams are gradually making their way to Florida for the MLS is Back Tournament, albeit in stop-start fashion.

Toronto FC became one of several teams to delay their departure, pushing its flight from Friday to Saturday, saying more time was needed to complete pre-travel COVID-19 testing.

The New York Red Bulls also delayed their Friday departure, saying a staff member had produced an inconclusive COVID-19 test result. While other staff and players had tested negative Thursday, the Red Bulls said they would reschedule their flight once all the test results were confirmed.

Toronto did not immediately respond to a request for more information about its delay. The team's 55-word news release did not specify whether there was an issue with its test results or if the results were simply slow to come back.

Nashville SC pushed its Thursday departure back to Friday, citing delays in getting results of its pre-travel screening tests.

Sporting Kansas City, scheduled to fly Sunday, said it had confirmed that a positive test for a member of its travelling delegation had turned out to be a false positive.

While some teams are having issues getting to Florida, establishing a secure MLS bubble there has also proved challenging.

Six players from FC Dallas and one from Columbus Crew SC have already tested positive in the Sunshine State. They have been isolated and are receiving care while the other members of their delegations are in quarantine pending more testing.

Major League Soccer had required teams to arrive in Florida no later than a week before their first game at the tournament, which runs July 8 to Aug. 11 at Disney's Wide World of Sport Complex in the Orlando area. But issues with test results have caused several delays.

The Vancouver Whitecaps were slated to fly Wednesday but held off after the inconclusive COVID-19 Polymerase Chain Reaction (PCR) test results required follow-up tests.

The club said subsequent test results were confirmed to be negative. Still the Whitecaps postponed their flight to permit additional testing and remained in Vancouver as of Friday.

Toronto was forced to call off training Wednesday after problems getting test results in time.

FC Dallas made it to Florida last Saturday, only to have two players test positive upon their arrival at the league's host hotel. Four other players tested positive soon after.

All six were assessed and moved to the isolation area of the hotel where they continue to receive "remote care from a health-care provider,'' the league said.

Coincidentally, Vancouver and Dallas meet July 9 in the first match at the World Cup-style tournament both.

Toronto opens July 10 against D.C. United.

The Montreal Impact, who also kick off July 9 against the New England Revolution, arrived Thursday.

Eleven other teams had arrived in Florida as of Thursday: San Jose Earthquakes, Orlando City, Dallas, Columbus, Minnesota United, FC Cincinnati, Chicago Fire, Inter Miami, New York City FC, Philadelphia Union and New England Revolution.

D.C. United, Portland and Seattle were scheduled to join Nashville in Orlando on Friday.

While all 26 teams are staying in the same hotel, they are not supposed to have contact with each other.

League protocols include regular screening, testing, social distancing, personal protective equipment and a mandatory quarantine for all individuals upon arrival at the hotel until they have a negative test.

MLS has been on hiatus since March 12 when play was suspended two weeks into its season.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published July 3, 2020.


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