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MLS resumes in tournament form less one team

FILE - In this Aug. 10, 2019, file photo, FC Dallas defender Ryan Hollingshead plays the ball while Minnesota United forward Miguel Ibarra chases him during the first half of an MLS soccer match in Frisco, Texas. Hollingshead has been sheltering in place since Major League Soccer suspended the season because of the coronavirus outbreak. But his experience has been a bit different than other athletes in the same situation. He and his family have spent the time bonding with their foster son. (AP Photo/Roger Steinman, File)

By ANNE M. PETERSON

AP Sports Writer

Major League Soccer is about to resume its season — in a state that has seen a huge spike in coronavirus infections, with one team absent because of a COVID-19 outbreak, and with plenty of worry about what will happen next.

The MLS is Back tournament starts today in Florida. The league’s teams are sequestered in resorts for the duration of the World Cup-style tournament, which will be played without fans at ESPN’s Wide World of Sports complex at Walt Disney World.

FC Dallas withdrew from the tournament on Monday after 10 players and a coach tested positive for the virus. On Tuesday, Nashville SC’s status was thrown into doubt with five confirmed positive tests.

“It’s a strange time, because on one hand you’re focused to get ready for this tournament, and get pumped up and get excited about it because the the tournament sounds a lot of fun, World Cup-style,” Real Salt Lake veteran Kyle Beckerman said. “But then on the other hand you’re thinking, ‘Is this even going to happen?’ So there’s mixed emotions going on.”

The tournament kicks off with a match between Orlando City and expansion Inter Miami, a nod to the host state. Nashville was supposed to play Chicago in the second game tonight, but it has been postponed.

Additionally, Toronto FC’s opening game against D.C. United was moved from Friday evening to Sunday morning. Toronto was supposed to depart on Friday, but additional testing meant the Reds didn’t arrive until Monday.

MLS shut down because of the coronavirus pandemic on March 12, after the league’s teams had each played two regular-season games.

Commissioner Don Garber said that despite the disappointment about Dallas, the case shows that the league’s extensive testing in its so-called bubble is working.

“We knew when we created this tournament that we would experience some impact of some of the coronavirus,” Garber told The Associated Press. “We’re all learning to live with COVID-19 and to adapt to the pandemic and to ensure that we’re taking care of each other and taking care of ourselves and following the health and safety protocols as closely as possible. We also knew that when we launched this tournament, there would be an element of risk.”

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