Major League Soccer announced the MLS is Back Tournament today, their plan to resume the 2020 season. All 26 clubs will be competing at the ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex at Walt Disney World Resort in Florida. The tournament will begin on Wednesday, July 8.
The MLS is Back Tournament is the most exciting possible way to relaunch the 2020 season, which marks the league’s 25th year. All games will be played without any fans in attendance.
The MLS is Back Tournament will consist of group stage matches followed by elimination rounds. All group stage matches will count toward the regular season. The elimination rounds will be played for a grand prize — a coveted spot in the 2021 Scotiabank Concacaf Champions League.
Don Garber’s Statement on the MLS is Back Tournament
“We are pleased to team up with Disney to relaunch the 2020 MLS season and get back to playing soccer. 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. We also recognize that the death of George Floyd and others has focused our country on issues of racial injustice, inequality and violence against black men and women. Together with our owners, players and staff, the League and its Clubs are deeply committed to creating meaningful and impactful programs to address these issues that have plagued our society for far too long.”
The MLS is Back Tournament will be similar to the FIFA World Cup format. Each team will play three group stage matches over the course of 16 consecutive days. The top two teams from each group will automatically advance into the knockout stage. Additionally, the four third place teams with the highest number of points will also advance.
16 teams in all will move into the knockout rounds. Any elimination match that is a draw at the end of regulation will go straight to penalties to determine a winner. The winner will get a Champions League berth for 2021, a one-time exemption to the typical Concacaf format in light of the extenuating circumstances on account of the COVID-19 worldwide pandemic.
As an added incentive, players have a chance to win additional bonuses from a prize pool of $1.1 million.
The MLS is Back Tournament draw takes place tomorrow at 12:30pm PST. To balance the groups, Nashville SC will move to the Eastern Conference for the remainder of the season. The East will consist of three groups, one group of six and two groups of four. The Western Conference will have three groups of four.
When the MLS is Back Tournament is complete on August 11, Major League Soccer expects to resume the regular season with some revisions. The league has yet to determine the final number of matches or the schedule, but hopes to have more to announce in the weeks to come.
Major League Soccer’s medical department worked with their infectious disease experts to develop a comprehensive COVID-19 testing plan for the tournament. The full health and safety protocols are explained on the MLS is Back Tournament site. In addition, Major League Soccer has offered to contribute serology or antibody tests to Central Florida residents starting on June 18.
MLS is Back Tournament Key Dates & Figures
June 24: Teams begin arriving in Florida
July 8: MLS is Back 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
Number of Matches: 54 (39 group; 15 knockout)
No. of matchdays: 26
Format: Group Stage, followed by Round of 16, Quarterfinals, Semifinals & Championship match
Minimum Matches: 3 (per club)
Maximum Matches: 7 (per club)
LAFC last played on March 8 against the Philadelphia Union. The match ended in a 2-2 draw.