(Reuters) – Major League Soccer’s attempt to restart its COVID-19 hit season suffered another setback on Tuesday when Vancouver Whitecaps announced five members of the team will not make the trip to Orlando for the ‘MLS is Back’ tournament.
Forwards Lucas Cavallini and Fredy Montero chose not to travel with the team to Florida because of the novel coronavirus threat.
Georges Mukumbilwa, a Canadian permanent resident, was not cleared to travel outside of Canada and Tosaint Ricketts has been ruled out with an unspecified pre-existing condition that puts him at a higher risk if he contracted COVID-19.
Andy Rose has chosen not to travel as his wife is about to give birth.
“Due to the current situation with COVID-19, I made the hard decision to stay with my wife and daughters in Canada, instead of traveling with the team to Florida,” said Montero in an Instagram post. “It was not an easy decision.”
In his seventh MLS season, the Colombian has 68 goals in 186 matches with the Whitecaps and Seattle Sounders.
Canada international Cavallini had similar concerns.
“Unfortunately COVID-19 has had a very big impact, taking away two beloved members of my family. I feel that it is best that I remain home to support my loved ones at this challenging time,” said Cavallini in a statement.
The month long tournament to be played in a quarantine bubble at Disney’s Wide World of Sports Complex in Florida kicks off on Wednesday.
All 26 MLS clubs were set to take part until FC Dallas were withdrawn on Monday after 10 players and a staff member tested positive for the coronavirus.
Vancouver were scheduled to play Dallas in their tournament opener on Thursday.
“We are really feeling safe,” said Atlanta United coach Frank de Boer during a pre-tournament conference call. “When Dallas came here they were probably contaminated already.
“What I see from our players they look not concerned but I cannot look in their minds of course.”
Nashville SC could be the next to be withdrawn as MLS postponed their first game and are evaluating the club’s participation after five players tested positive and four more require further testing.
Earlier the league lost one of its star attractions and reigning most valuable player when Los Angeles FC’s Mexican forward Carlos Vela opted to stay home, citing his wife’s “risky pregnancy”.
(Reporting by Steve Keating in Toronto. Editing by Toby Davis)