Bruce Arena

Bruce Arena: Revolution players have had 'real good approach' to MLS bubble

Bruce Arena: Revolution players have had 'real good approach' to MLS bubble

The New England Revolution begin MLS Is Back Tournament play Thursday night against the Montreal Impact, ending a four-month break caused by the COVID-19 pandemic forcing sports leagues around the world to delay, pause or cancel their respective seasons.

In an effort to limit the spread of COVID-19, the MLS has gathered all of its teams in a bubble in Orlando for a World Cup-style tournament. The stakes are high as a berth in next year's CONCACAF Champions League is on the line, and group stage games will count toward regular season points.

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The Revs' first group stage game against the Impact is a tough one. The Impact boast a talented team, and they have won each of the last three meetings versus the Revolution, including a 2-1 win at Montreal in February. 

In a video conference call with reporters Wednesday, Revolution head coach Bruce Arena spoke about how his team is adjusting to the conditions in Orlando ahead of Thursday's showdown.

“The food is actually very good. Before we went, I saw that somebody wrote an article about how bad everything was here and the food was terrible. Actually, the food’s been very good," Arena explained. "The fields are very good. A hotel is a hotel. When you get into professional sports and you’re traveling a lot and you’re staying in hotels, you’re sick of all that. We’ve been here now a week. It’s going to be challenging as the tournament continues to grow. But we have no complaints.

"Listen, there’s going to be issues along the way with everything, with testing for the virus every other day. We’re getting on buses and traveling to training and all of that, and it gets a little bit of wear and tear on you mentally but, for the most part, our guys have had a real good approach to the whole thing. And as I said at the beginning of this, this is what we’d rather be doing anyway instead of just sitting quarantined in a house or an apartment in Boston. I don’t know why anyone would be complaining about being here. This is what we do for a living and we’re going to get the opportunity to do it. I’m excited for this competition to start.” 

There will be plenty of mental challenges for the Revs. Playing in a bubble is a new experience for these players. However, Arena is confident his team will be able to handle the adversity that comes its way.

“These are the things you do every day with teams. Whether you’re in a bubble or not, or you’re going on a long road trip, it’s the same thing," Arena said. "If your team is a real team and they want to play and they want to be successful, they find ways to overcome any of these small, little issues in life. Maybe there’s a day where the meal isn’t good, the bus is late, we have a thunderstorm. Come on. Let’s get on with it.

"That’s generally our attitude. There’s nothing here that really is troubling to our team. We have no excuses. There are really no excuses from our end. We don’t find anything here to be that difficult that we can’t deal with it.” 

MLS schedule: Revs Group C game dates, times in MLS is Back tournament

MLS schedule: Revs Group C game dates, times in MLS is Back tournament

Hang tight, Major League Soccer fans. Live games are just two weeks away.

The league is set to resume its 2020 season July 8 and 9 with the MLS is Back Tournament, in which all 26 teams will compete in a World Cup-style format that begins with a group stage.

The New England Revolution have drawn into Group C with Eastern Conference opponents Montreal Impact, Toronto FC and D.C. United. And now we know when they're playing.

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Here's the Revs' full group stage schedule, with broadcast information in parentheses:

Thursday, July 9

Revs vs. Impact, 8 p.m. ET (TUDN/TSN/TVA/98.5 The Sports Hub)

Thursday, July 16

Revs vs. D.C. United, 8 p.m. ET (FS1/TUDN/TSN/98.5 The Sports Hub)

Tuesday, July 21

Revs vs. Toronto FC, 9 a.m. ET (ESPN/TSN/98.5 The Sports Hub HD2)

If the Revs advance to the knockout stage, they'll play their Round of 16 match between July 25 and 28.

The quarterfinal matches are set for July 30 through Aug. 1, with the two semifinal games on Aug. 5 and 6 and the final on Aug. 11.

All games will be played at the ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex outside of Orlando, Fla., where the Revs will be looking to make some noise in Bruce Arena's first full season as head coach.

Revolution's Bruce Arena: New tournament 'should be a big plus' for MLS

Revolution's Bruce Arena: New tournament 'should be a big plus' for MLS

A World Cup-style tournament is coming to Major League Soccer.

MLS will be the first major men's sports league in North America to return to game action since the COVID-19 pandemic put sports on pause beginning in March. The "MLS is Back Tournament", which includes all 26 teams, begins July 8 and will take place in Orlando. The tournament consists of a group stage, followed by knockout rounds culminating in a championship final. A total of 56 games will be played. When the tournament is over, the 2020 MLS regular season will resume.

Get the latest news and analysis on all of your teams from NBC Sports Boston by downloading the My Teams App

New England Revolution head coach and sporting director Bruce Arena joined "Arbella Early Edition" on Wednesday night to react to the tournament and other topics. 

"We've been away for so long. We're pleased to be playing again," Arena said. "We know it will be difficult. The conditions will be very tough on the players, but despite that, we're real excited. We're guaranteed three games, and our goal is to get out of the group stage and get into the Round of 16, and hopefully keep moving forward from there.

"It'll be interesting. I think the format, the games being meaningful, will be very important to the staff and players of all the teams in the league. You're going to see some real competition. As I said, the conditions in Orlando this time of the year are pretty tough, so it'll be a real challenge for the team."

Being the first American sports league to return is a tremendous opportunity for the MLS to attract new fans and show the sports community the excitement of pro soccer in the United States.

"Getting back first is certainly going to catch a lot of eyeballs. We're excited by that," Arena said. "The support by Disney and ESPN is tremendous. I think all the games are going to be live on national television. Some interesting times, 9 a.m. ET and I believe 8 p.m. and 10:30 p.m. at night. We're capable of attracting audiences from all over the country and different parts of the world, so it should be a big plus for Major League Soccer."

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Even though this tournament won't determine the MLS Cup winner, there's still plenty at stake, including regular season points, plenty of bonus money and a 2021 CONCACAF Champions League berth.

"There are big purses also for the winning teams as you advance in the tournament," Arena said. "I think the league said there's $1.1 million in bonus money for that. There's also a Champions League spot next year. "It's a real meaningful tournament for teams."

Aided by players returning from injury and the additions of new players acquired since the end of last season, Arena is confident the Revolution will be an improved squad and a dangerous team in this tournament.

"I think we're going to have a stronger team," Arena predicted. "Our individual group workouts went well, and when the guys reported for full team training, they had a pretty decent fitness level. We had three good training sessions to date, and we've got to keep carrying on. As of today, we have about four weeks before our first game. There's a lot of work to put in, I think we're going to have a stronger team than we had last year. We're excited about the opportunity to go to Orlando and show that the New England Revolution are going to have a good team this year."

The Revolution will find out their first few opponents Thursday when the MLS does the group stage draw for the tournament.