A second MLS game has been affected by the coronvavirus outbreak with the reigning league champion Seattle Sounders announcing Wednesday that their March 21 home game with FC Dallas has been postponed. The decision came shortly after Washington Gov. Jay Inslee declared the state would prohibit gatherings of more than 250 people in three Seattle-area counties.
“We respect the difficult decision that has been made today and our club will continue following the guidelines set forth by our public health authorities and government agencies,” the team said in a statement. “We will maintain our consistent dialogue with elected leadership, public health officials and Major League Soccer.”
In Southern California, the Los Angeles County Department of Public Health said it is not asking for events to be canceled, although that may become necessary.
“We’re not there yet,” said Barbara Ferrer, the department’s director. “But we do need to get prepared.”
Ferrer did advise pregnant women and other at-risk people to voluntarily avoid large public gatherings such as sporting events.
The San Jose Earthquakes announced Tuesday that their March 21 game will not be played as scheduled after Santa Clara County’s public health department banned all gatherings of 1,000 or more people, beginning at midnight Wednesday. The team has not said whether the game with Sporting Kansas City will be postponed or played without fans.
Also affected was Wednesday night’s USL Championship game between Landon Donovan’s San Diego Loyal and the Tacoma Defiance. That match, the first road game in Loyal history, will be played in an empty Cheney Stadium.
“We fully support Gov. Inslee’s announcement and will comply with all recommendations from local health authorities as they develop,” said Warren Smith, the Loyal’s president. “We take our responsibility to San Diego very seriously and will continue to take all appropriate precautions for the safety of our players, staff and community.”
The Loyal arrived in the Seattle area on Tuesday, before the ban on public gatherings was made. With the team already on the ground, local authorities, in concert with public health officials, decided it would be safe to play the game with only players, coaches and essential staff present.
A Loyal spokeswoman said the team is in contract with San Diego officials regarding future games.
“We are closely monitoring developments in our region on COVID-19, including updates from San Diego County officials and the Centers for Disease Control,” the team said in a statement.
The coronavirus, officially designated a pandemic by the World Health Organization, has already forced the cancellation of soccer games in China, Japan and South Korea. FIFA and the Asian Football Confederation have postponed World Cup qualifiers in March and June, while in Italy, all sporting events, including Serie A matches, have been canceled until at least April 3.
The next two rounds of matches in Spain’s La Liga will be played in empty stadiums while first- and second-division matches in France will be played behind closed doors through at least April 15. The German Bundesliga is playing select games in empty stadiums while others in little-affected areas will proceed as normal.
In England, Wednesday’s Premier League game between Arsenal and Manchester City was postponed as a “precautionary measure” after several Arsenal players went into self-quarantine. The players’ action came after Evangelos Marinakis, owner of Greek club Olympiakos, tested positive for the virus.
Marinakis met several Arsenal players two weeks ago when the teams met in a Europa League match in London. Marinakis also owns Nottingham Forest, a team in the second-tier English Championship.
The impact of the coronavirus has so far been little felt in England in comparison to the rest of Europe, and the Premier League, the world’s most popular soccer league, said it has no plans to postpone any other matches.