Nashville SC became the second team to be removed from the MLS is Back Tournament on Thursday after it was confirmed that they had nine positive COVID-19 tests. At the same time, MLS announced that the Chicago Fire would be moved from Group A to Group B. That leaves each of the six groups with four teams and allows the Seattle Sounders to have three group-stage games.
The Sounders will now face the Fire on July 14 at 6 AM PT, the same day and time they had originally been scheduled to play FC Dallas before their withdrawal. This will be the second time the two teams play this year, with the Sounders winning the first encounter 2-1 in the season opener on March 1. The rest of the Sounders’ schedule remains unchanged, aside from FS1 picking up the Sounders-Whitecaps game on July 19.
Nashville’s withdrawal comes a couple days after FC Dallas was removed from the tournament when 10 players tested positive. Outside of those teams, there have been just a handful of other positive COVID-19 tests reported from inside the MLS “bubble” and no other team has had more than one positive test.
While obviously not an ideal scenario, Nashville’s withdrawal at least allows for a cleaner tournament setup.
FC Dallas’ withdrawal left MLS in a bit of an awkward situation from a competitive standpoint. While Dallas could at least theoretically make up their three missed matches when the regular season theoretically resumes, the Sounders’ group was left a team short with no easy way to fix it. The temporary plan, which was even announced by MLS in a since-deleted video, was for the Sounders’ group to have just three teams. That would have left the remaining teams with just two games apiece, effectively eliminating one of them from the knockout stage and relegating the other two to lower qualifying positions.