MLS to Return to Play on July 8 with Disney World Tournament


Major League Soccer will return on July 8 with a World Cup-style tournament running until August 11 in the Orlando area.

The 26 teams will participate in the “MLS is Back” tournament at the ESPN Wide World of Sports complex at the Walt Disney World Resort in Florida.

The NBA also plans to resume play at the Disney complex.

The 54-game MLS tournament, which will take place before the empty stands, marks the resumption of the 25th season in the league, which was interrupted on March 12 after two rounds due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

“When we came up with the tournament concept at Disney World, we were just very unsure of when we could go back to our stadiums in our home market and we thought, ‘Why don’t we bring them all together, do we bring our teams together? , 26 teams assembled on a neutral site, play games every day, bring our players back to the field for our fans, “said Commissioner Don Garber in a recorded video.

“But it’s very important to do it with consequent games, so a total prize pool of (US) $ 1 million … All of this is our best step forward to do what we can in an exciting, convincing way and meaningful to return to play for 2020. ”

Garber said Disney has the infrastructure to accommodate nearly 2,000 players and employees expected to attend the tournament.

The hope is that the league, once the tournament in Florida is over, can continue the regular season with a revised schedule in national markets. The league says details of the new schedule will come later, as will whether the teams will play at clubs in the other conference.

The start of the July 8 tournament is essentially halfway through the original schedule. Toronto FC, for example, would have played 17 of its 34 regular season games on its original schedule when the number was 15 for Vancouver and 14 for Montreal.

Players and team officials will be tested regularly for COVID-19 as part of a plan developed by league medical service and infectious disease experts. Anyone who tests positive will be “removed from the tournament” and anyone who has been in contact with them will be tested “very very regularly,” according to Garber.

Florida group stage matches of the competition will count towards the regular season standings and the tournament winner, whether American or Canadian, will secure a place in the CONCACAF Bank Champions League Scotia 2021.

The winner will take the place in the Champions League usually awarded to the MLS regular season points leader in the conference in front of the winner of the 2020 Fan Shield.

Clubs will begin arriving in Orlando on June 24 for “pre-season training”.

The teams will play three group stage matches over 16 days. The first two of each of the six groups, as well as the best four thirds, will then advance to the knockout phase: round of 16, quarterfinals, semi-finals and final.

Matches will start at 9:00 a.m. and 8:00 p.m. and 10:30 p.m. ET with most taking place in the evening, the league said.

A draw to determine the groups for the tournament will take place on Thursday.

Orlando City SC, as host club, will be seeded to Group A, which will include six teams and an open game on July 8.

The other five seeders are the four semifinalists in the 2019 playoffs _ Toronto FC, Atlanta United, Los Angeles FC and Seattle Sounders _ plus Real Salt Lake, the team with the second highest total points Western Conference of the 2019 season.

The draw will assign the remaining 20 unclassified clubs to groups, depending on the conference.

The Eastern Conference, which will host Nashville SC for the remainder of the 2020 season, will consist of three groups – one made up of six teams and two made up of four teams each. The Western Conference will consist of three groups, each made up of four teams.

The tournament will allow teams five substitutions per game and a video review. Teams will be able to dress 24 players for matches.

Tie games at the end of regular time in the knockout phase will go directly to a penalty shootout.

Key dates

June 24: Teams start arriving in Florida.

July 8: Beginning of the group phase “MLS is Back Tournament”.

July 25-28: round of 16.

July 30-August 1: quarter-finals.

August 5-6: semi-finals.

August 11: Final “MLS Return Tournament”.


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