US national team players Megan Rapinoe, Tobin Heath, and Christen Press have opted out of the National Women’s Soccer League tournament kicking off this weekend in Utah.
The NWSL is the first team sport in the United States to return after sports were shut down because of the coronavirus outbreak. Players were given the option of opting out without losing salaries or insurance.
Heath and Press, who played with Rapinoe on the champion World Cup team last summer in France, cited concerns about the coronavirus for their decisions not to play.
“Although I want to be on the field with my teammates doing what I love, because of the uncertainty and risks created by COVID-19, I have chosen not to participate in the NWSL Challenge Cup,” Heath, who plays for the Portland Thorns, said in a statement released by the team.
The Challenge Cup opens Saturday with a game between the Thorns and the defending champion North Carolina Courage and run through July 26. The league’s teams announced their rosters Tuesday.
Among the national team players taking part in the tournament are Chicago’s Julie Ertz and teammate Alyssa Naeher, North Carolina’s Crystal Dunn and Portland’s Becky Sauerbrunn.
The league was rocked by the announcement Monday that the Orlando Pride were dropping out of the tournament after six players and four staff members tested positive for COVID-19. The withdrawal leaves eight teams participating in the monthlong tournament.
A new schedule was released Tuesday following the Pride's withdrawal. In addition to Portland's game against the Courage on Saturday, the Chicago Red Stars will play the Washington Spirit in the late match.
Teams will be sequestered during the tournament and games will be played at stadiums in Herriman and Sandy, which are suburbs of Salt Lake City.
US Soccer Hall delays new class
The US National Soccer Hall of Fame has postponed its 2020 induction ceremony to 2021 because of the pandemic. This year’s induction ceremony had been scheduled for Sept. 19-20 in Frisco, Texas, where the Hall of Fame is located.
Members of the 2020 and 2021 classes will be inducted together in a ceremony next year.
Voting for the 2020 class was completed earlier this year but not yet announced. Former US national team goalkeeper Hope Solo was among the first-time eligible players on the ballot. US national team members Brad Davis, Whitney Engen, Herculez Gómez, and Clarence Goodson also were among 14 first-time eligible players on the 42-person ballot.
PSG, Toulouse reveal cases
Three players from Paris Saint-Germain and four from fellow French soccer team Toulouse have tested positive for the coronavirus, their clubs said Tuesday.
PSG said the three players and a member of staff were infected by the virus during the lockdown when they were not in contact with each other. They "are no longer contagious and can carry on their training program," the club said.
PSG and Toulouse did not reveal the players’ identities. According to Toulouse team doctor Patrick Flamant, the four Toulouse players who have been infected have been placed in isolation. The rest of the staff and players will undergo further testing after six days.
PSG was crowned French champion after the league decided to abort the season because of the pandemic. However, the team is still set to play two domestic cup finals and has made it to the last eight of the Champions League, which will be played as a mini tournament in Portugal in August.
Toulouse, which has been relegated to the second division for next season, said its players were tested Monday ahead of the resumption of training.
Four more with Phillies have COVID-19
The Philadelphia Phillies say two more players and two additional staff members have tested positive for COVID-19, spiking the number of total members in the organization who have the virus to 12.
The Phillies said Tuesday all other tests within the organization have come back negative. One of the two players tested positive outside the team’s spring complex in Clearwater, Fla.
The Phillies did not identify anyone affected by COVID-19.
The Phillies shut their spring complex after five players tested positive Friday for COVID-19. Philadelphia became the first big league team known to be struck by the outbreak. Three staff members at the camp also tested positive, and the Phillies didn’t identify any of those affected.
Other teams have reported positive tests without identifying the players affected.
MiLB brings suit against MLB
Fifteen minor league baseball teams have filed a lawsuit alleging breach of contract by insurance providers after being denied claims for business-interruption insurance due to the coronavirus pandemic.
Major League Baseball announced Monday that it will attempt to play a 60-game regular season, but its minor league clubs — many under threat of losing affiliations amid negotiations with MLB — are unlikely to play until at least 2021.
Minor league franchises said in the suit filed Tuesday that even though they continue to pay yearly premiums to insurance providers for business-interruption insurance, they have been denied coverage after Baseball commissioner Rob Manfred indefinitely suspended their seasons in March.
Minor league teams are mostly small, independently owned businesses, and their model depends on affiliates receiving players, coaches, and other team personnel provided by major league clubs.
The suit claims teams are stuck with over $2 million in expenses on average, including as much as $1 million in ballpark lease payments, marketing costs, food and beverage supplies, and salaries and benefits for permanent employees.
Teams say providers are citing two reasons for denying claims — because losses are not resulting from direct physical loss or damage to property, or because policies include language excluding coverage for loss or damage caused by viruses.
The minor league clubs listed in the suit are the Chattanooga Lookouts, Augusta GreenJackets, Boise Hawks, Columbia Fireflies, Eugene Emeralds, Binghamton Rumble Ponies, Fort Wayne TinCaps, Frederick Keys, Greenville Drive, Idaho Falls Chukars, Inland Empire 66ers, Amarillo Sod Poodles, San Antonio Missions, Stockton Ports and Delmarva Shorebirds.
Steelers’ Tomlin says pair recovered
Pittsburgh Steelers coach Mike Tomlin says two unidentified players have tested positive for COVID-19 and recovered.
Tomlin said the players tested positive at some point earlier this year. Both players went through what Tomlin called “the appropriate protocol” and have since returned to work.
Neither player visited the team facility at any point during the offseason. The Steelers, like the rest of the NFL, have been meeting and training remotely rather than in person since mid-March.
Cricket tour still on, despite seven new cases
Pakistan’s cricket team was still confident of going on tour to England despite seven more of its players testing positive for COVID-19 on Tuesday, raising the total of those contracting the virus to 10.
“The tour to England is very much on track and the side will depart as per schedule on June 28,” Pakistan Cricket Board chief executive Wasim Khan said on a video call.
Pakistan will set off Sunday without the 10 players and one staff member who have to self-isolate at home. None of them are showing symptoms.
The seven newly infected players were fast bowlers Wahab Riaz, Mohammad Hasnain, and Imran Khan, wicketkeeper Mohammad Rizwan, opening batsman Fakhar Zaman, allrounder Mohammad Hafeez, and spinner Kashif Bhatti. Also testing positive was a staff member, masseur Malang Ali.
As soon as the 10 cricketers and one staff member test negative, they will be flown to England on a commercial airline, Khan said.
The coronavirus is spreading in Pakistan at one of the fastest rates in the world, with new cases in the country leaping from around 2,000-3,000 a day in late May to up to 6,800 a day in mid-June. On Tuesday, Pakistan reported 105 new COVID-19 deaths and the total cases in a country of 220 million has risen to 185,034.
Meanwhile, British Prime Minister Boris Johnson confirmed cricket in England remained banned outside the elite level, saying a cricket ball was a “natural vector of disease.”
“At the moment we’re still working on ways to make cricket more COVID-secure,” Johnson said.
Monmouth sets opening date
Monmouth Park will reopen for simulcast wagering and sports betting July 2, with live horse racing returning the following day.
The complex will operate at 25 percent capacity as part of New Jersey’s second stage of loosening of restrictions to slow the spread of the coronavirus. The racetrack has been closed to the public since March 16 because of the pandemic.
“We know our fans are as eager to return to Monmouth Park as we are to have them back,” said Dennis Drazin, chairman and CEO of Darby Development LLC, which runs the track.
The 37-day meet runs through Sept. 27, highlighted by the $1 million Haskell Invitational July 18.
Karate worlds postponed
This year’s karate world championships have been postponed for one year because of the coronavirus pandemic.
The World Karate Federation says the championships will now take place from Nov. 16-21, 2021, in Dubai, United Arab Emirates.
The governing body said, “The well-being and safety of competitors and fans could not be ensured amid the ongoing epidemic of COVID-19.”
Karate was set to make its debut at the 2020 Olympics in Tokyo, but that event has also been postponed by a year.
The karate worlds are held every two years. The scheduled 2022 event has also been put back one year to 2023 in Budapest.
Twin Cities Marathon put online
The 2020 Twin Cities Marathon will switch to a virtual event because of the pandemic, marathon organizers announced.
Entrants in the 39th edition of the Minneapolis to St. Paul race can run any 26.2-mile route any day in October.
Twin Cities in Motion, which stages the marathon, said it will shift the rest of its 2020 races to a virtual format because of pandemic-related restrictions on big gatherings. Runners will submit their times online, and race finishers still will receive their T-shirt and medal, the Star Tribune reported.
The marathon was scheduled for Oct. 4. As many as 30,000 runners were expected to participate in marathon weekend events.