Everything you need to know about MLS return

MLS is Back
MLS Is Back is a tournament that will kick off in Orlando on the 8th of July. Credits: Vancouver Whitecaps FC

The MLS 2020 Season opened up with a big bang in March, with two additional clubs: Inter Miami CF and Nashville SC making their debut in Major League Soccer table, as the league’s new expansion teams.   

However, only two weeks into the season, the MLS schedule came a grinding halt amid the coronavirus pandemic.  Whereas safety concerns for fans, players and staff have placed the top flight of US soccer, alongside many other professional sports leagues in the world on a training Moratorium.   

The MLS teams and league executives have considered throughout this forced shutdown many options for returning to play, whilst still keeping player and fan safely, and adhering to social-distancing rules. 

MLS Commissioner Don Garber kept in constant touch with fans and updated regularly on the progress and league decisions. Initially, he made it widely known that he is working with the league executives and team owners on returning to playing soccer once conditions will allow it.  The initial aim for the Major League Soccer to return was June

Other top soccer leagues around the world are returning to play behind closed doors. The Bundesliga in Germany which was one of the first professional leagues that returned to play in a new format, and so did the Liga NOS, La Liga, and Serie A.

The MLS is Back Tournament is bringing the league together to resume its 2020 Season in a World-Cup style tournament in Orlando, Florida, with teams, coaches, and staff arriving at Orlando in June to resume training. Then Major League Soccer returns to action in July. 

SoccerAntenna gathered for you all the facts, dates and info you need to know about the MLS Is Back Tournament, so you can jump straight back into the MLS 2020 Season.

Where will the tournament take place?

The MLS tournament will take place at Disney’s ESPN Wide World of Sports in Orlando.  The complex has 17 fully-lit soccer fields.  In addition to all the gyms, training, track, and other sports facilities, there are additional indoor areas on the venue with over 20 indoor basketball courts.

These will serve for training in the case of the MLS but will also serve for other major sports leagues. For example, the NBA which is also coming to Florida to resume its season, arriving to the ESPN WWOS complex in July.

espn wide world sports orlando mls tournament
ESPN Wide World of Sports, Photo: Peter Cosgrove

How will the MLS Is Back tournament work?

26 MLS teams will be divided into six groups, with the Eastern Conference having two groups of four teams each, and one group of six teams.  The Western Conference will have three groups, each consisting of four teams.   

Each team will play three group-stage matches over sixteen straight days, and the best 16 teams (the 2 top teams of each group together with the 4 best teams from all the groups that reached third place) will move on to the Round of 16, which is a knockout stage.  8 of these 16 will then qualify for the Quarterfinals, of which 4 winners will qualify for the Semifinals and two for the finals.

When will it happen?

  • June 24: All twenty-six MLS teams will begin arriving to Orlando to start training.
  • On July 8: MLS is Back Tournament officially opens with the Group Stage.
  • July 25-28: Round of 16 games are played.
  • July 30-August 1: Tournament Quarterfinals
  • August 5-6: Tournament Semifinals. 
  • August 11: MLS is Back Tournament Final

What is the prize?

There is an opportunity for MLS players to earn bonuses as part of a $1.1 million prize pool, which is a pretty nice addition given the recent pay cuts that MLS players had to take as part of their collective agreement

Besides the prize, each of the 39 group-stage games will count for points towards the 2020 Regular Season rankings.  The winner of the MLS is Back Tournament will also clinch a seat at the 2021 Concacaf Champions League

And of course, no less important are the bragging rights of winning the MLS is Back Tournament, which will probably go down in history as one of the most interesting major sporting events ever. 

And with so many world soccer stars such as David Beckham, Jaap Stam, and Thierry Henry waiting on the sidelines to take a piece of the action, it is bound to be one of the most explosive tournaments as well.

After the MLS is Back Tournament is finished, the league plans to resume the 2020 Regular Season with rescheduled games at team venues. 

This will be followed by Playoffs, the MLS Audi Cup, and the 25th MLS Cup.  Schedules will be decided on and published at a later date.

About Ziv Chen 21 Articles
Ziv grew up in the US and Israel, and graduated with a Master’s Degree in Marketing Communications from University of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. Have been living in the UK for the past decade, Ziv still struggles to decide between the two loves of his life: American football (NFL) and soccer. Marrying between his two loves, Ziv is an avid follower and supporter of the MLS, which he covers regularity for soccerantenna, as well as his own MLS site.

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