It’s been rumored for weeks, and Major League Soccer officially announced plans today to restart the 2020 season with a tournament in Orlando, featuring all 26 teams. It’s called the “MLS is Back” tournament, and will begin July 8, with the final set for August 11. All matches will be played at the ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex, with no fans in attendance. MLS originally suspended play on March 12 due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Here are the details:
- Teams will be divided into six groups during a live draw that will take place Thursday, June 11 at 3:30 ET.
- Teams will all play three group stage matches, which will count toward regular season standings. MLS said it does plan on having teams return to home markets after the tournament to finish the season, but will only play against teams from their own conference.
- The tournament winner will get a Concacaf Champions League spot. It will replace the spot given to the points leader in the conference opposite the Supporters’ Shield winner. Teams from both the U.S. and Canada are eligible for the spot.
- Matches will take place daily at 9 am ET, 8 pm ET, and 10:30 pm ET. There will be 16 straight days of matches to begin the tournament.
- Knockout stage matches tied at the end of regulation will go straight to a shootout.
- 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.
- The league said there will be extensive medical protocols and testing to combat the spread of COVID-19
- For the remainder of the regular season, the final number of matches and the schedule will be announced in the coming weeks.