By Chris Smith.
Professional soccer will return to the United States and Canada in July in the form of the MLS is Back Tournament.
As has been the case with the majority of leagues and sports across the globe, Major League Soccer has been suspended since March due to the outbreak and effects of Coronavirus.
However, with the 2020 MLS season just two games old at the time, a whole unique set of questions were presented regarding the league’s resumption of play.
The MLS is Back Tournament is the answer to those questions but what is it? When does it start? What is at stake?
Only one can lift it. 🏆 pic.twitter.com/yz1eZR4h9N
— Major League Soccer (@MLS) June 15, 2020
We’ve got you covered right here.
When is the MLS is Back Tournament and where is it being played?
- The entire tournament is being played behind closed doors at the ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex in the Walt Disney World Resort in Orlando, Florida.
- The teams will arrive in Orlando to begin training and preparation on June 24th, with the group stages kicking off on July 8th.
- The knockout rounds begin on July 25th and will conclude with the final on August 11th.
- Kick-off times will be at 9 a.m., 8 p.m., and 10:30 p.m. EDT (UTC−4) due to the Florida climate. No matches will overlap, meaning audiences have the option to tune into every single game.
Read more of WFi’s MLS coverage here:
- Fight for Philly: How Philadelphia Union Are Supporting The Local Community During The Coronavirus Pandemic
- Exclusive: Craig Forrest On How MLS Can Compete With Liga MX & Become Globally Relevant
- One Rising Star From Every MLS Team Right Now: Eastern Conference
- One Rising Star From Every MLS Team Right Now: Western Conference
What is the format and what is at stake?
- The MLS is Back Tournament features all 26 MLS sides, split into six groups based on their conference. Group A consists of six teams, while the other five groups are made up of four teams each.
- Originally, only the top two teams in each group, as well as the four third-place finishers with the best record, would advance to the round-of-16.
- However, MLS later announced that the top three teams from Group A would qualify for the knockout rounds, with only three third-placed teams now eligible to advance as so-called “wildcards”. The fourth-placed team in Group A is also able to advance via one of these three wildcard slots.
- Regular season protocols will be in place to decide tiebreakers.
- Across the group and knockout stages combined, the tournament will consist of a total of 54 matches (39 in the group stage, 15 in the knockouts).
- Group stage matches ensure every team will play at least three matches, while they will also count toward the MLS regular season standings.
- The knockout rounds won’t count toward the regular season, but the winner of the MLS is Back Tournament will receive a berth in the 2021 Concacaf Champions League — as a one-off, this team will replace the Conference winner that doesn’t lift the Supporters Shield.
- There is also a $1.1 million prize pool for players to earn additional bonuses.
MLS is Back Tournament groups
Some betting sites listed on Wincomparator have already released their odds, with Atlanta United, LAFC, and Seattle Sounders installed as favourites. This trio will be hoping to live up to this tag by winning their respective groups, all of which line up as follows.
- Group A (East): Orlando City SC, Inter Miami CF, New York City FC, Philadelphia Union, Chicago Fire FC, Nashville SC.
- Group B (West): Seattle Sounders FC, FC Dallas, Vancouver Whitecaps, San Jose Earthquakes.
- Group C (East): Toronto FC, New England Revolution, Montreal Impact, D.C. United.
- Group D (West): Real Salt Lake, Sporting Kansas City, Colorado Rapids, Minnesota United FC.
- Group E (East): Atlanta United FC, FC Cincinnati, New York Red Bulls, Columbus Crew SC.
- Group F (West): Los Angeles FC, LA Galaxy, Houston Dynamo, Portland Timbers.
What matchup are you looking forward to most? 🤔
— Major League Soccer (@MLS) June 11, 2020