Major League Soccer will return with all 26 teams set to arrive in Orlando starting June 24. The “MLS is Back Tournament” will take place between July 8-August 11. Yesterday morning, the league announced all rules and new COVID-19 regulations for the tournament, which will take place at ESPN Wide World of Sports at Disney World Resort in Florida. The return is just a few weeks away.
The Group Stage (July 8 – July 23)
In a World Cup style format, teams are to to be placed amongst six different randomly drawn groups. The Western and Eastern Conference will have 3 groups each, but different layouts when it comes to how many teams will be placed in each. Group A will feature Orlando City SC along with five other teams from the Eastern Conference. However, Groups C and E will feature four clubs each from the East. Atlanta United and Toronto FC will split into the remaining of the two Eastern groups. On the Western side, groups B, D, and F, will all have four teams each. LAFC, Seattle Sounders, and Real Salt Lake will be placed in separately in these groups.
In a traditional style group stage in any tournament around the world, each team has a chance to play against all the other teams in the group. With the league announcing there will only be three group stage matches, participants in Group A won’t be able to faceoff against the entire group. To aid the grouping and numbers, Nashville SC will temporarily play as an Eastern Conference team. All three group stage matches will count towards the 2020 regular season. The draw for the groups will happen this afternoon at 3:30 EST.
The Knockout Tournament (July 25 – August 11)
After the group stage, set to end on July 23, the top two teams from each group, and the four best third place teams will be seeded into a knockout tournament. There will only be one match in knockout play, with a tie game going directly into penalty kicks.
- Round of 16 – July 25-28
- Quarterfinals – July 30-August 1
- Semifinals – August 5-6
- Final – August 11
All times are TBA.
What to Play for
MLS announced after the new CBA deal was reached, that there is a $1.1 million prize pool. The tournament will allow the players to earn bonuses. It’s been rumored that there is also a trophy that will be lifted on August 11, but there’s one prize that makes this tournament serious.
Other than the fact that the three group stage matches will count towards the regular season, teams will be playing hard all tournament because of a 2021 CONCACAF Champions League spot that will be granted to the winner. Regardless if it’s an American or Canadian club, this one time berth into the CCL will be replacing the spot that is usually awarded to the top team in the conference that doesn’t have the winners of the Supporters Shield.
Inter Miami CF was cleared to return to full team training earlier this week. Fans will hope it’s enough time to put the club ahead of the rest, turn around the 2020 season, and qualify for the CCL in its inaugural year.
The league also announced that the 2020 regular season will take place shortly following the finale of the “MLS is Back Tournament.”