An alleged racial slur prompted officials with The Soccer Tournament to suspend the fifth match of the second session of pool play in Cary, N.C., on Thursday.
At the end of regulation time between West Ham and Dallas United, with Dallas United ahead 2-0 and a “target score” for overtime set at 3, some of West Ham’s players appeared to be visibly agitated on the field. Players from both teams were seen yelling back and forth.
Moments later, all of West Ham’s players collected their belongings and walked off the field without finishing the game. Former NBA All-Star Chris Paul, a part owner of TST, was at field level and was talking to players from both teams, trying to keep the peace.
In a statement posted on the tournament’s official social media channels just after 8:15 p.m., officials wrote that the game had been suspended.
“The match between West Ham United & Dallas United has been suspended pending an investigation into allegations of use or intent to use a racial slur,” the statement said.
“TST has zero tolerance towards racial abuse, and take these allegations very seriously. After speaking with players and coaches from both teams, officials, and consulting audio from our production team, TST will issue the results of its investigation.”
According to the match broadcast, some of West Ham’s players allegedly heard a Dallas United player direct a racial slur at one of their players. Officials did not hear the alleged slur, according to the information provided on the broadcast.
Coaches, officials and tournament founder and CEO Jon Mugar remained on the field discussing what had happened.
Dallas United was initially credited with a 2-0 victory in their second game of the day. Dallas lost its first game of the event and could now be now 1-1 through two games if the result is allowed to stand. West Ham would fall to 0-2 and be eliminated from knockout round contention.
The incident in the evening session marred what was otherwise a great day for soccer enthusiasts in North Carolina — and around the world for those able to watch on streaming services.
Celebrities scattered throughout the lineups of the 32 teams playing in TST were highlights for some fans, but the tournament’s format and the excitement it generated — and the $1 million, winner-take-all stakes — made for compelling viewing.
Most of the games in both sessions were competitive, many reaching the player-reduction stage of the unique overtime format in this tournament.
The first session of match play Thursday produced more tight games than blowouts, though most teams playing their first games of the four-day event took a while to get used to the different rules.
In a few games, back-line players were pinching to create offsides, only to be burned by a player slipping behind them because, in TST, there is no offside rule.
In one of the marquee early matchups, Wrexham of Wales produced one of the more exciting results when, after trailing Como 1907 2-0 at the end of regulation, the Red Dragons rallied to win 3-2 in the “target-time” overtime period, a unique and exciting feature added to this tournament that tries to create an avenue for each team to win each game without any true blowouts.
Among Como’s rostered players is former NBA All-Star Steve Nash, who played regular minutes in his team’s stunning loss.
Though there were a few lopsided scores in the opening session, including a 5-0 win by Say Word FC over the U.S. Women’s team. Two other teams with representatives from the U.S. national teams — Team Dempsey and Conrad & Beasley United — posted one-goal wins.