USL Championship Final Cancelled
The United Soccer League announced today that the 2020 USL Championship Final scheduled for Sunday, November 1 will not be played due to multiple persons from the Tampa Bay Rowdies Soccer Club testing positive for COVID-19.
The decision was made out of an abundance of caution upon a second round of rapid testing on Saturday morning at the Tampa Bay Rays' medical facilities. The affected individuals from the Tampa Bay Rowdies have been immediately isolated at home, are recovering in good spirits under the care of team physicians and infectious disease experts, and all league, local and state health and wellness protocols continue to be followed.
"Our thoughts and concern right now are with the people from the Tampa Bay Rowdies and their family members who are fighting the Coronavirus," said Phoenix Rising FC Governor Berke Bakay. "We know they and their fans are as heartbroken as we are that the 2020 USL Championship Title match cannot be played."
Phoenix Rising FC's players and staff arrived in Tampa Florida on Thursday and had no members of its organization test positive for the Coronavirus.
"We want to applaud these two teams on an incredible season," said USL President Jake Edwards. "They deserved the opportunity to play for the USL Championship Final trophy, and we are disappointed that we won't be able to watch them on Sunday night. We want to thank all of our clubs, our supporters, our players and our staff for all of their time, hard work and energy this season. We've grown closer under difficult circumstances and we can't wait to be back together again soon."
USL HQ, in collaboration with Phoenix Rising and the Tampa Bay Rowdies, has therefore made the determination that the season will conclude after Tampa Bay and Phoenix each progressed through their conference playoffs to win the Eastern Conference and Western Conference titles, respectively, last Saturday.
Additionally, USL HQ, Phoenix Rising and the Tampa Bay Rowdies will explore the possibility of a 2021 Season Kickoff game between the two clubs prior to the start of the 2021 Championship season.
"I would like to thank our players, fans, sponsors, coaches and staff for their incredible commitment and support during this unprecedented season," added Bakay. "You are all champions to me."
The Phoenix Rising FC players collectively shared the following statement:
"2020 has been a year like no other. Following pre-season competition against tough MLS opponents, we had a decisive win in our season opener, yet we were struck by the realities of the Coronavirus. At that time, we found ourselves quarantined away from our families and unable to play the game we all love for an unknown length of time.
By July, we were finally allowed to return to training and competition under strict guidelines within one of the toughest groups in the USL. We had our own bout with Covid-19. Eight players were infected and thankfully all recovered.
While we approached the end of an extremely productive season, our physical and mental health had been truly tested all season long. We had just lost our MVP and Head Coach to an out of character moment for the entire Club. Throughout our history, we have always been an accepting community of people from all likeness and cultures. We felt ashamed about the events that occurred, because everyone, no matter their sexuality, race, creed, and culture, deserves the right to enjoy this beautiful game together.
Despite the external distractions and pressure, we beat all odds - we made it to Tampa!! We were so excited, because not often does an athlete get the opportunity to play for a Championship! But, this morning, we were heartbroken to learn that Covid-19 had unfortunately made its way into the Tampa Bay Rowdies camp. We pray for their health and recovery, yet we are saddened that we will not have the chance to proudly represent our families, our fans, and our Club on our highest possible mountain top - as USL Championship Final winners. We wanted to play, the Rowdies wanted to play, but sadly the realities of 2020 yet again set in. Ultimately, we are Western Conference CHAMPIONS ... a badge we will wear together with our fans with the utmost Pride!"
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