A week after the NBA solidified its plan to finish the regular season and championship playoffs at ESPN Wide World of Sports, Major League Soccer announced its plan to restart the 2020 season with a World Cup-like tournament involving Orlando City and all 26 MLS clubs out at Disney.
Games would begin July 8 in the “MLS is Back” event without fans in attendance, forming a way for MLS to see its 25th season to completion. Teams will play in Group stages, like the World Cup, and the tournament winner receives a berth in the 2021 CONCACAF Champions League in Europe.
“We are pleased to team up with Disney to relaunch the 2020 MLS season and get back to playing soccer,” said MLS Commissioner Don Garber. “The opportunity to have all 26 clubs in a controlled environment enables us to help protect the health of our players, coaches and staff as we return to play.”
Players will undergo a rigorous COVID-19 testing plan (an overview of health, safety and medical protocols can be found HERE). MLS is also making a contribution to the community, making serology (antibody) tests to Central Florida residents beginning June 18.
Here are important upcoming dates:
June 24: Teams begin arriving in Florida
July 8: Tournament group stage begins
July 25-28: Round-of-16
July 30- Aug. 1: Quarterfinals
August 5-6: Semifinals
August 11: MLS is Back Tournament Final
A total of 54 matches will be played over Wide World’s two dozen fields. Teams will get a minimum of three and maximum of seven (for the two teams that reach the final) tournament matches.
Similar to a FIFA World Cup format, the tournament will feature a continuous schedule of matches nearly every day, with games beginning at 9 a.m., 8 p.m. and 10:30 p.m. Eastern. The vast majority of the matches will be played in the evening. Each team will play three group stage matches, and those results will count in the 2020 MLS regular season standings.
As the host club, Orlando City SC will be given the top seed in Group A, which will be the six-team group, and will play in the first match on July 8. The rest of the MLS teams will be drawn into six groups on Thursday at 3:30 p.m. MLS will provide the tournament schedule, national television partner networks, and other important details soon.
After 16 days of group stage matches, the top two teams from each group along with the four best third-place finishers will move on to the four-round knockout stage. Matches tied at the end of regulation in the knock-out phase will proceed directly to a penalty kick shootout. The Championship match will take place on Aug. 11.
After the tournament, MLS plans to continue its regular season with a revised schedule in home markets, followed by the Audi MLS Cup Playoffs and the 25th MLS Cup.
Here’s a guide to the MLS is Back Tournament Competition Guidelines.