We’re approaching normalcy in regards to professional sports and Major League Soccer just turned heads with their most recent announcement.
MLS announced today that soccer will return to action July 8. Games will be played in a World Cup-style tournament, running through August 11th in Orlando, Florida.
Dubbed the “MLS is Back Tournament,” the event will feature all 26 teams competing at the ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex at Walt Disney World Resort in Florida.
This announcement comes as MLS has been shut down for nearly three months thanks to COVID-19.
Group stage matches will count towards the MLS standings. The tournament winner will earn a spot in the 2021 CONCACAF Champions League.
After the tournament is complete, the league is hoping to continue its regular season with a revised schedule in home markets. The season would then be followed by the playoffs and 25th MLS Cup.
MLS halted play early into the 2020 campaign. As it stands entering this tournament, Atlanta United FC are 2-0 and atop the Eastern Conference. The Western Conference currently has three undefeated teams, with Sporting Kansas City, Minnesota United FC and Colorado Rapids all 2-0.
Every game in Orlando will be televised nationally in the U.S. on ESPN, Fox, or Univision. It is also unknown if fans will be allowed to watch the games live, as that will be determined by local authorities.
Games will start early in the morning and play late in the evening in an attempt to evade the Florida heat. Games are slated to start as early as 9 a.m. ET and start as late as 10:30 p.m. ET.
A draw for the tournament will be held Thursday to determine the six groups. In another move, Nashville SC will be moved to the Eastern Conference. The East will have three groups with one group consisting of six teams and two groups consisting of four teams. Over in the Western Conference, they will have three groups, each consisting of four teams.
Orlando City will be given top seed in Group A and will play its first game on July 8. The five remaining seeds will consistent of the semifinalists from the 2019 MLS Cup Playoffs – Atlanta United, LAFC, Seattle Sounders, Toronto FC and Real Salt Lake.