MLS is back. Tournament style.
Major League Soccer today announced the league’s plan to restart the 2020 season with all 26 MLS clubs competing in the MLS is Back Tournament at ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex at Walt Disney World Resort in Florida beginning July 8th.
You can read the full plan released by the Philadelphia Union today here. Below are some highlights we cut out.
Here’s how it’s going to work:
- Unique tournament to feature games that will count in regular season standings
- Tournament winner will earn spot in 2021 Scotiabank Concacaf Champions League
- Extensive medical protocols with regular testing will be implemented for the tournament
- MLS is Back Tournament to feature 16 consecutive days of soccer during the group stage
Clubs will begin arriving in Orlando as early as June 24th. Clubs that can practice in their own facilities are permitted to do so as long as they arrive at Disney a week before their first match.
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. EDT. Almost all matches are scheduled to be played in the evening.
There will be three group stage matches. The results will count in the MLS regular season standings. After 16 consecutive 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 knockout stage. The knockout stage will include a Round-of-16, Quarterfinals, Semifinals, and the Championship match will take place on August 11.
Matches tied at the end of regulation in the knock-out phase will proceed directly to a penalty kick shootout.
The MLS is Back Tournament winner will earn a spot in the 2021 Scotiabank Concacaf Champions League, regardless of whether it is a U.S. or Canadian club. The winner would replace the berth previously awarded to the MLS regular season points leader in the conference opposite of the 2020 Supporters’ Shield winner.
In addition to matches that count in the regular season standings and the Champions League berth, players will have the opportunity to earn additional bonuses as part of a $1.1 million prize pool.
For the MLS is Back Tournament, the 26 MLS teams will be drawn into one of six groups during a live draw that will take place tomorrow, Thursday, June 11 at 3:30 p.m. EDT. For the remainder of the 2020 MLS season, Nashville SC will be moved to the Eastern Conference. The Eastern Conference will have three groups, one consisting of six teams and two consisting of four teams each. The Western Conference will have three groups, each consisting of four teams.
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 five remaining seeds will consist of the four semifinalists from the 2019 MLS Cup Playoffs – Atlanta United, Los Angeles Football Club, Seattle Sounders FC, Toronto FC – and Real Salt Lake (the team with the next highest points total in the Western Conference from the 2019 season). The seeded teams will be drawn into their respective groups first and then the remaining 20 clubs will be drawn and distributed across the conference-based groups.
In addition, the tournament schedule, national television partner networks, and other important details for the MLS is Back Tournament will be provided soon.
Upon completion of the MLS is Back 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. The schedule will be developed at a later date. The final number of matches and the schedule for the remainder of the 2020 MLS regular season will be announced in the coming weeks.