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Will Carlos Vela play with LAFC in the MLS is Back Tournament?

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Speculation mounts as competition approaches.

MLS: Inter Miami CF at Los Angeles FC Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports

There are many questions swirling around the MLS is Back Tournament, scheduled to take place Jul. 8-Aug. 11 in Orlando. For Los Angeles Football Club, one of the biggest is personal.

Will Carlos Vela participate in the MLS restart event?

Here’s the deal: Vela may be the king of MLS right now, the reigning MVP who started the 2020 campaign on fire as well, but his wife is pregnant. They also have a young son, and with travel frowned upon, it’s quite possible it’s just the three of them at home right now.

With coronavirus raging around the country, including California and Florida, at present, there are elevated risks for Vela and his family. What if his wife delivers the baby while he is gone? He likely would not be allowed to be present for the birth, even if he made it back (and travel is pretty risky, too, for him). Or there could be other complications to mother and child even before birth — and on top of that COVID-19 is a bigger risk in itself for pregnant women.

Vela himself has never said anything publicly yet about whether he’ll play or not in Orlando, although rumors from reputable sources have said he was not in favor of the single-site bubble tournament. It’s possible he’s made up his mind, long ago. He’s been training, too, at least from the photos LAFC share on their social media.

To me, if a player is training, then it seems more likely he’s going to play. It’s possible he hasn’t decided, or that he is contractually obligated to train (because technically he is) and that’s the only reason he’s doing it right now. It’s possible!

On the contractual obligation front, technically zero MLS players have opted out of the tournament publicly so far, and part of that is because Commissioner Don Garber said on a conference call last month that there would not be an opt out policy, like in leagues like the NWSL, NBA and Major League Baseball. Instead, Garber spun his answer to say the league would work with players to get them to play.

But murmurings rumble on about Vela and Orlando.

And Kevin Baxter of the LA Times noted this week that LAFC haven’t said one way or the other if Vela will play in Orlando or not. In contrast, Vela’s friend and crosstown rival, Chicharito, is in a remarkably similar position — his wife is also pregnant with the couple’s second child — and the LA Galaxy said weeks ago Chicharito will be playing in the tournament, cutting off speculation on that front about that player.

Then a report came out late Wednesday from ESPN’s Jeff Carlisle that Vela hasn’t totally made up his mind but is leaning towards staying home.

For what it’s worth, I would personally support Vela if he does not play in the MLS is Back Tournament. Having been pregnant myself once before, it’s a time of hopes and expectations, and also fear and stress. I can’t even imagine being pregnant right now in the time of the coronavirus pandemic. And any man who opts to support his family gets my support.

But from a soccer perspective, an LAFC team with and without Vela is very different. It’s worth knowing one way or the other, and while I would hope the club knows what will happen, they’re keeping the rest of us on our toes right now. Of course, that includes upcoming opponents and that could be exactly what LAFC wants...

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