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MLS task force monitoring coronavirus outbreak

Major League Soccer has created a task force to monitor the coronavirus as the outbreak spreads in North America.

The Seattle Sounders opened their MLS season on Sunday in front of 40,000 fans at CenturyLink Field on Sunday and are scheduled to play at home again on Saturday. King County, Washington, which includes Seattle, declared a state of emergency on Monday after confirming 14 cases of the virus, resulting in five deaths.

"The league is in direct contact with the relevant governmental agencies including the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and Public Health Agency of Canada and is also coordinating with other sporting organizations," MLS said in a statement.

"The task force has been monitoring the most recent developments and communicating with MLS clubs regarding appropriate measures to take as the situation continues to evolve."

The Sounders, who also hosted a team from Honduras in the CONCACAF Champions League last Thursday, said in a statement released before Sunday's game the club and its stadium partners were "closely monitoring the public health developments throughout our region."

"Nothing is more important than public safety and the wellbeing of our fans at all Sounders FC events," the club said. "Our club is maintaining real-time communication with regional health authorities and Major League Soccer."

Meanwhile, the U.S. Soccer Federation told ESPN that the United States men's national team is still planning to travel to Europe later this month to play games in the Netherlands and Wales.

"As of now, we have not made any changes, and are still planning to compete in our scheduled games in Europe," the federation said in a statement. "We are monitoring the situation and keeping in direct communication with the CDC, State Department, FIFA and both [Dutch and Welsh soccer] Federations."

Also going ahead this week is the SheBelieves Cup, to be contested by the women's national teams of the U.S., England, Japan and Spain, with games slated for Orlando; Harrison, New Jersey and Frisco, Texas.

U.S. Soccer said medical staffs for all teams at the SheBelieves Cup will be monitoring for flu-like symptoms. All individuals in Japan's delegation were cleared after undergoing proactive assessments before leaving their home country, which has reported 12 coronavirus deaths as of Monday.

The virus has already had affected a number of soccer leagues in Asia and Europe. In Italy, multiple Serie A games have been postponed and other matches have been played behind closed doors, while the domestic league in Switzerland on Monday called off all games through March 24.

European soccer's top executives discussed the virus only briefly in a meeting in Amsterdam on Monday, with the European Championship set to be staged in 12 countries across the continent this summer.

"The UEFA president [Aleksander Ceferin] immediately set the tone that the panic around all this may be worse than the virus itself," Alexei Sorokin, a Russian member of the UEFA executive committee, said.

English Football Association chairman Greg Clarke said he expects the Euros "to go ahead, but if the facts change, government policy could change, then we'll see.''

Information from ESPN's Jeff Carlisle and The Associated Press was used in this report.

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