Chicago Fire midfielder Brandt Bronico knows a thing or two about risk. He and teammate Jeremiah Gutjahr became more active investors while Major League Soccer was suspended for approximately three months during the coronavirus pandemic. The two roommates, who both majored in accounting in college, spent their soccer-less days improving their financial literacy and calculating speculation of certain companies and the market as a whole.
Bronico, 25, and Gutjahr, 22, have their eyes—and money—on cloud and cybersecurity software companies, especially with more people working remotely because of the pandemic, as well as the cannabis industry as more states continue its legalization. Not only are they investing in stocks, but they are looking into real estate as well.
“To be financially literate is important for everybody, but especially for athletes because we can’t play forever,” Bronico said. “The earlier you invest, the more time to have to earn compound interest on those investments. … People can take this time to try and learn any other skill set—try to look for an opportunity in the adversity that faces us.”
While the two kept busy during the time MLS was at a standstill because of the coronavirus pandemic, their attention shifts from Wall Street to Walt Disney World with the MLS is Back Tournament starting July 8 at the ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex outside of Orlando, which presents a different kind of risk.
Hiding out in the MLS bubble is easier said than done as Florida continues to see confirmed cases skyrocket recently with 9,585 new cases reported June 27 and another 8,530 new cases reported June 28. MLS announced 18 players and six club staff tested positive as of Sunday; a total of 668 players have been tested since early June.
Also in Orlando, six players and four staff members of the Orlando Pride tested positive, causing the club to cancel its participation in the NWSL Challenge Cup, which began June 27 in Utah. Sixteen out of 302 NBA players tested positive for the virus; the NBA is restarting its season in Orlando on July 30.
“The biggest thing is we don’t really know how we’re going to react to the virus,” Bronico said. “It seems it’s been different for a lot of people—some are asymptomatic and some are going to the hospital. If we get this virus, what’s going to happen? Is it worth a month-and-a-half long tournament? That’s my biggest concern. I just hope everybody can stay safe and healthy when we go down there and the virus doesn’t affect anybody to the point where they have to go to the hospital.
“The league is putting in protocols and there’s going to be a lot of testing down there, but that doesn’t necessarily mean nobody’s going to get the virus. If they get it, what’s going to happen? If it does send somebody to the hospital, what’s going to happen if I get it or one of my teammates gets it or if they bring it back to their family when the tournament’s over? There’s so many unknowns and it seems like this virus can be extremely dangerous if it affects the wrong person that has underlying health issues. I just hope everybody can stay healthy and nobody has to suffer from getting this virus.”
Per MLS protocol, all 26 clubs are traveling to Orlando via charter plane, and must arrive no later than a week before their first match. All essential members of a club must undergo two Polymerase Chain Reaction (PCR) tests 24 hours apart, while players will undergo a baseline antibody test as part of a physical exam, that also includes a temperature check and completion of a screening questionnaire.
When teams arrive in Florida, all individuals are required to immediately take another PCR test, and must remain quarantined until receiving the results. As of June 28, 329 people were administered PCR tests on-site, with two positive cases confirmed.
Even getting to this point has been a struggle for the league, which faced the potential of a lockout until the collective bargaining agreement was revised. Bronico, Gutjahr, who is out four months with a meniscus injury, and CJ Sapong represented the Fire in the CBA/restart conversations.
The revised CBA announced June 3, which runs through 2025, was based on the deal announced in February but never ratified. Players agreed to a 5% pay reduction this season in exchange for an extra year on the CBA. The league also recovered some of the media rights revenue promised to the players.
“It was exhausting, honestly,” Bronico said. “We’d be going back and forth multiple times a week for about a month and a half. … We were able to negotiate something that benefits us a little bit more, but there were no winners in the negotiations. We realized there’s more important things going on in the world than playing soccer, and we thought we could have more of an impact if we’re on the field and in front of the cameras.”
Despite the three-month layoff, exhausting CBA/restart conversations, and threat of coronavirus, Bronico is happy to return to what he loves the most. Situated in Group A, the Fire play Nashville SC (July 8), Inter Miami FC (July 14), and New York City FC (July 19). The tournament’s Round of 16 knockout stage begins July 25, and a champion will be crowned August 11.
“I’m thrilled to be back,” Bronico said. “The two things I love the most are playing soccer and winning. I can do both of those going down to Orlando and playing in the MLS is Back Tournament. I can’t wait for the season to start back up again.”