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Crew to permit fans for Eastern Conference Final

This will be the first time in the MLS Cup playoffs that Columbus will allow fans to attend a match.

FC Cincinnati v Columbus Crew SC Photo by Emilee Chinn/Getty Images

Updated 3:25pm: A club spokesman gave the following statement to Massive Report in regards to Sunday’s match:.

Crew SC will strictly enforce our Responsible Restart Plan on Sunday, which has robust health and safety protocols, that have allowed our Club to safely host an extremely limited number of fans on seven previous occasions this season. We maintain our confidence in the plan, which was founded upon the recommendations and best practices of medical and industry-leading third-party experts with the sole focus of keeping everyone in the venue - our players, coaches, gameday staff and of course, our fans - as safe as possible. The health and safety measures in place include the following protocol mandates: 1) wearing a face mask or covering at all times; 2) limiting pods of known fans to eight or fewer people; 3) six-feet social distancing throughout the stadium; 4) robust hygiene and sanitation protocols; and 5) signage, video imagery and Experience Team ushers to reinforce the protocols throughout the match. All of these measures continue with one thing in mind: keeping the health and safety of everyone entering the building as the top priority on matchday.

It was a busy Wednesday morning for the Columbus Crew. Just after announcing an eighth positive COVID-19 test in just over a week’s time, the Crew announced that, for the first-time since Decision Day nearly a month ago, the team will have fans in attendance at MAPFRE Stadium to watch the Black & Gold play.

This marks the first time in the 2020 MLS Cup playoffs that fans will be in attendance at MAPFRE Stadium, as the Crew will allow 1,500 supporters into the stadium plus family and guests of the team for Sunday’s Eastern Conference Final against the New England Revolution. This decision comes in stark contrast to the club’s decision to stop allowing fans at games prior to the playoffs following Franklin County’s stay-at-home advisory due to an increase in COVID-19 cases.

In November, COVID-19 cases skyrocketed across the United States and specifically in Ohio. This club elected to not allow fans to attend the first two playoff games against the New York Red Bulls and Nashville SC.

For much of the regular season, the Crew allowed a maximum of 1,500 fans inside MAPFRE Stadium with all fans in attendance required to wear masks and maintain a six-foot distance while following other health and safety guidelines. The fans at MAPFRE Stadium for Sunday’s match will also have to follow other rules and regulations set by the club. That includes a ban on tailgating and a notice for all cashless payments at the stadium.

COVID-19 cases in Franklin County ballooned in an upward trend throughout most of November, causing the county to reach Level 4, the most severe level of spread and exposure of COVID-19. The city of Columbus is currently under a stay-at-home advisory that will last through much of December. The city has maintained between 700 and 800 daily COVID-19 cases for much of November along with multiple days of double-digit hospitalizations. Those daily case numbers are the highest Columbus has had since the start of the pandemic but began to declined to end November and start December.

Along with the update on fan attendance for Sunday’s match, the club also confirmed the report that one more Crew player received a positive coronavirus test. Currently, eight Crew players have received positive tests over the last week and a half. The most recent positive test came at the beginning of the week with Tuesday’s round of testing returning no new positive cases. The eight players that have COVID-19 have remained and will remain in isolation. The Crew’s medical staff is closely monitoring all individuals in isolation.

At the time of this writing, the Crew is still scheduled to play New England on Sunday for a chance to play in the MLS Cup Final at 3 p.m. ET on ABC.