The details are out regarding Major League Soccer’s return, starting with the long-rumored tournament in Orlando, which has been named the MLS is Back Tournament. (Eh. OK. The name is…whatever. It could have been worse.)
As expected, the tournament will take place ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex at the Walt Disney World Resort. The event begins July 8 and will wrap up Aug. 11.
Here are the details:
*All 26 MLS clubs participating; all matches in Orlando
*Group stage followed by knockout rounds
*Group stage counts toward regular season
*Winner earns 2021 Concacaf Champions League spot
*Pre-tournament draw to assign groups
*Regular season continues after tournament
In an effort to keep everyone safe, the league stated it will use “extensive medical protocols and a comprehensive COVID-19 testing plan developed by infectious disease experts.”
The group stage will take place July 8-23 with each conference split into three groups. All of the groups will consist of four teams except Group A in the Eastern Conference, which will feature six teams. Orlando will be in this group and the rest of the draw will be held tomorrow at 3:30 p.m. and streamed live on MLSSoccer.com, Twitter, Facebook, and YouTube.
The top two teams in each group and the top four third-place finishers will advance to the knockout rounds. The Round of 16 will begin July 25, whittling teams down until the Aug. 11 final. Nashville will move to the Eastern Conference for the remainder of the 2020 season.
Every game of the tournament will be televised.
All 54 matches will air on MLS partner networks. Broadcasts will feature experimental technologies, including interactive fan elements and unprecedented access to players and coaches, to create a unique experience for viewers.
The biggest news in today’s announcement is probably the last bullet: “Regular season continues after tournament.” Prior to today there wasn’t a lot of talk about what might happen after the tournament. There will still be a lot to iron out, including the number of games to be played, the format, and whether anything changes in terms of the MLS Cup playoffs.
While it doesn’t state that fans will be allowed back in the stadiums when the regular season resumes, the return of teams to their home grounds is a big step toward returning to normalcy, or at least whatever is going to pass for normalcy for the foreseeable future.
David Rohe and I spoke to Orlando City Head Coach Oscar Pareja about the tournament and his expectations and preparation, which you can hear tomorrow as part of this week’s special 200th episode of The Mane Land PawedCast, so stay tuned for that.