This week Major League Soccer will restart after shutting down back in March. Like other sports leagues, they are creating a “bubble city” for its players to perform and live in. The soccer league worked out a deal with The Walt Disney Company to host a one-off tournament in Orlando.
Games involving all of the 26 teams will start this week, with Orlando City SC taking on Inter Miami on July 8. The Philadelphia Union will kick off the leagues “breakfast games” when they take on New York City FC at 9 am on July 9.
Now back to the tournament details, one of the interesting things about the “bubble city” is all of the teams living together in a hotel. In this case the 26 teams are occupying the Swan and Dolphin hotels in Walt Disney World. One of the fun facts about these two resorts is they are not an actual Disney owned resort. Instead, the resorts are owned by a third party and operated under Marriott’s Sheraton Hotel Brand.
Another fun fact many people might not know is that the entire Walt Disney World Resort is actually in two Florida Counties. The southern part of Orange County, where Orlando is, and Osceola counties. With that in mind, Disney World is governed by its own Improvement district, the Reedy Creek Improvement District. Because of this Disney World has its own fire department and 800-person security unit.
The Swan and Dolphin resorts sit in between Disney’s Epcot and Disney’s Hollywood Studios theme parks. Allowing guests to either take a boat to either theme park or walk to them. It takes about 15 minutes to walk to Epcot’s International Gateway. Where it is around a 20-minute walk to the front gate of Hollywood Studios. The hotels themselves are designed by Michael Graves. The two resorts are connected by a Palm Tree lined covered corridor. The Dolphin has over 1,500 rooms, where the swan has just over 750 rooms.
The resort complex has plenty of indoor and outdoor space for the teams. So much space Union’s team manager Jim Curtin said Friday “He hasn’t laid eyes on another team. ”One reason for this, each team has their own wing at the resort. ESPN.com reports the wings include 45 guest rooms, a club lounge and a meeting room. The club lounges include a ping pong table, a card table and video games for the players use.
Inside the hotels the league has built multiple training centers. Teams are allowed to use the centers for two hours per day. The equipment is disinfected after each training session.
Outside the hotels, but still inside the league’s bubble, the teams have access to multiple pools the resorts have. The two lap pools will be used for teams to host a regeneration session for their players. The other pool the resort has is called the “Grotto Pool” and it is massive. The three-acre pool has several waterfall features, a beach, a water slide. It also has a water volleyball court for guests to use. As far as resort pools go, this is one of my favorites in Disney. It’s almost as good as Stormalong Bay, which is at Disney’s Yacht and Beach clubs. There is a massive pool that includes a water slide and water volleyball for the players. Outside of ‘water’, the teams can take part in various games like cornhole, spikeball, and even an oversized Battleship game.
While all of this sounds great and safe for the players, the resort is still among a complex of resorts that will soon be reopening and hosting guests nearby. Disney’s Beach club and Disney’s Boardwalk Villas are open for guests currently. On top of that, the two theme parks that are within walking distance of the resort will reopen July 15. So it may be a hard task to keep people from gaining access to the two resorts MLS is calling home.
On top of all this, while the players are staying there, the resort staff is not being confined to the resort. As I have said earlier this is also the same model other leagues, like the NBA who will also be setting up at Disney World and playing games at ESPN Wide World of Sports.
We have already seen one game postponed because six FC Dallas players tested positive for the coronavirus when they arrived in Florida. Now FC Dallas is quarantined. There’s also potential for a cancelation of Nashville SC’s first game after five of their players tested positive (Nashville is scheduled to play the Union on July 14). As far as testing goes for the tournament, the league is requiring players and staff to be tested every two days.
As always we’ll keep you updated here with any developments. For now, we can all count down to the return of Philly sports on Thursday with the Union’s 9 a.m. game against NYCFC.