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Rick Zamperin: Coronavirus issues in MLS should serve as warning for NHL and NBA

COVID-19 impacted the MLS is Back Tournament again Sunday, with a pair of test results on the eve of kickoff prompting Toronto FC's opening match against D.C. United to be postponed.
COVID-19 impacted the MLS is Back Tournament again Sunday, with a pair of test results on the eve of kickoff prompting Toronto FC's opening match against D.C. United to be postponed. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck

As the number of confirmed coronavirus cases across the United States continues to explode, it should come as no surprise that the pandemic is wreaking havoc on the MLS is Back Tournament at Disney World in Florida.

The NHL and NBA should be taking notes.

Two Major League Soccer teams, FC Dallas and Nashville SC, have been forced to bow out of the days-old tournament due to a flurry of their players and coaches testing positive.

Just minutes before Sunday’s 9 a.m. kickoff between Toronto FC and D.C. United, Major League Soccer announced the game was postponed because one player on D.C. United had tested positive and a Toronto player had an inconclusive test.

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Despite losing two teams, and having to postpone a couple of games in the tournament’s first week, MLS deputy commissioner Mark Abbott told a virtual conference call, “we believe the tournament can still be conducted safely. And if at the point we determine it can’t, obviously we would make a decision then.”

Abbott’s comments come as Florida health officials reported a record high 15,300 new coronavirus cases in a 24-hour period over the weekend.

NHL returning to play in Toronto and Edmonton
NHL returning to play in Toronto and Edmonton

NBA teams have already arrived at Disney World as they get ready for the league’s restart on July 30, while NHL training camps open Monday in each team’s home city across North America with the aim of landing in the hub cities of Toronto and Edmonton by July 26 and playing the first games on Aug. 1.

Both leagues have reported a smattering of cases (the NHL reported 35 cases from June 8 to July 6) and some players have decided to opt out instead of trying to finish their suspended seasons.

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Read more: NHL remains committed to playing full 2020-2021 hockey season: commissioner

Given how COVID-19 has forced the MLS to alter its best laid-out plans, the NHL and NBA would be wise to have a solid contingency plan in place in the event the coronavirus strikes.

The last thing each league will want during their respective playoffs is to abandon ship because of too many positive test results.

Rick Zamperin is the assistant program, news and senior sports director at Global News Radio 900 CHML.