The USL Championship final between the Tampa Bay Rowdies and Phoenix Rising has been canceled after multiple Tampa Bay players tested positive for COVID-19, the league announced on Saturday.
Tampa Bay and Phoenix have been named conference champions in the absence of the final.
“The decision has been made for the health and safety of everyone involved after multiple persons on the Tampa Bay Rowdies covered persons list tested positive for COVID-19 upon a second round of rapid testing on Saturday morning at the Tampa Bay Rays’ medical facilities,” the league said in a statement. “The affected individuals 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.
“USL HQ, in collaboration with the Tampa Bay Rowdies and Phoenix Rising FC, 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.”
The positive results within the Tampa contingent are in addition to three previous positives that included Tampa manager Neill Collins.
Earlier in the week, the USL canceled the League One final between Union Omaha and Greenville Triumph SC, with Greenville being declared the champion on the basis of a better points-per-game average during the regular season.
The USL could have postponed Sunday’s scheduled final but that would have required a minimum delay of 3-4 weeks after isolating the teams and then giving them time to train for the match.
“First and foremost, 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. With that said, 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.”
The league added that the Rowdies and Rising will look to play a “Season Kickoff” game between the two clubs before the start of the 2021 season.
“While we are disappointed that the Championship and League One Finals have been canceled, we understand and appreciate the decision to put player health and wellness first,” the USL players’ association executive committee said in a statement.
“We look forward to seeing all our players back in action at the start of next season.”