Due to the coronavirus pandemic, all major league sports went on an indefinite hiatus to abide by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s (CDC’s) recommended health and safety standards and social distancing guidelines. As states are beginning to ease restrictions that were put in place to curb the spread of COVID-19, many nationally broadcast sports are making plans to return, with some such as WWE and UFC already resuming matches.
One of the latest sports leagues to announce their return is Major League Soccer (MLS). Similar to the NBA’s plans to resume their season in The City Beautiful, MLS games will return in July 2020, at Walt Disney World’s ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex in Orlando, Florida, with the “MLS Is Back Tournament.”
Orlando City Soccer Is Back!
The MLS Is Back Tournament will begin to play in Orlando on July 8, 2020, with a match between David Beckham’s new Inter Miami CF and the Insurance Office of America (IOA)-insured Orlando City SC. IOA Chairman and CEO Heath Ritenour are thrilled to have his favorite soccer team back in action in his own backyard. “The return of MLS in Central Florida is a huge win for Orlando City fans and the city of Orlando,” he exclaimed. “Vamos Orlando!”
How the MLS Is Back Tournament Will Work
The MLS is Back Tournament will be comprised of three group-stage matches played by 26 of the league’s teams. The 26 teams will be narrowed down to just 16 teams that will compete in a knockout round held July 25 – 28. Following the knockout round, the qualifying teams will compete in the quarterfinals on July 30 – August 1, with winners advancing to the semi-finals, held August 5 – 6. The tournament will last until August 11, 2020, the day of the final championship game. With no live audience members in attendance, each of the games will be counted as part of the main MLS soccer season that was delayed in March 2020.
MLS Is Back Tournament Team Groups
The North American league’s 26 MLS teams competing in the tournament will be divided into six groups. These groups include:
- Group A: Orlando City, Nashville SC, Chicago Fire, Philadelphia Union, Inter Miami, and New York City FC
- Group B: Vancouver Whitecaps, FC Dallas, San Jose Earthquakes, and Seattle Sounders
- Group C: DC United, Toronto FC, New England Revolution, and Montreal Impact
- Group D: Minnesota United, Sporting Kansas City, Real Salt Lake, and Colorado Rapids
- Group E: Columbus Crew, Atlanta United, New York Red Bulls, and FC Cincinnati
- Group F: Portland Timbers, Los Angeles FC, Houston Dynamo, and LA Galaxy
The knockout round will be comprised of the top two winningest teams from each group, as well as the four best third-place teams.
The Future of the MLS
The MLS Is Back Tournament is expected to be just the beginning of the MLS’s return. Post-tournament, the regular season is expected to resume broadcasting matches by teams at their home stadiums. Should those games prove successful, and barring any further coronavirus-related delays, soccer playoff events will continue — culminating with the 25th MLS Cup Championship. Given the current circumstances, however, all scheduled games will be closed to spectators until further notice.