Orlando Pride Withdraw from NWSL Challenge Cup After Multiple Positive Coronavirus Tests

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The Orlando Pride have pulled out of the NWSL's Challenge Cup tournament after six players and four staff members tested positive for the coronavirus, the club announced on Monday. 

The news comes just five days before the start of the tournament in Utah, which will mark the league's return to play after the start of the season was halted due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The decision leaves eight teams and will require a reworking of the schedule and potentially the format as well.

"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 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.”

Orlando stated that all affected players and staff have received medical attention and will undergo a 14-day isolation period. A second round of tests will be administered to confirm the positive cases. 

"Those who may have had close contact with the team members, including housemates, have been notified and are being monitored for symptoms," the Pride's official statement reads. "They will continue to undergo additional COVID-19 testing."

The Pride also said that all individuals who tested positive are asymptomatic. 

According to The Athletic and The Equalizer, the spread may be attributed to select players attending bars and nightclubs, which had been reopened as per Florida state guidelines.

The NWSL is currently working to reconfigure the tournament's schedule for the eight remaining teams. Under the original schedule, Orlando was set to play on the competition's opening day, a 10 p.m. match against the Chicago Red Stars on Saturday night. 

“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.”

This outbreak of COVID-19 is not the first for sports teams in Florida. On Friday, the Tampa Bay Lightning shut down their training facilities in the state after multiple team members tested positive for the virus. The same day, the Philadelphia Phillies reported that five of their players had contracted COVID-19 after visiting their training facility in Clearwater, Fla. That facility was also shut down.

On Monday, just hours before the Pride's announcement, the state of Florida passed 100,000 confirmed cases of COVID-19 after reaching a new record-high daily count of 4,049 new cases on Saturday.