Major League Soccer will return this summer at the Happiest Place on Earth.
The league announced Wednesday morning that it will resume its season July 8 at the ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex at Walt Disney World Resort in Orlando. All 26 teams will take part in the “MLS is Back Tournament,” where 54 matches (39 group stage, 15 knockout round) will be played.
Portland Timbers owner Merritt Paulson shared his excitement for the restart of the 2020 season.
Its not “good” to be back...its freaking fantatsic!! So pumped for MLS soccer! And very much hoping post-Orlando that we can start safely playing games in our own stadiums. Lets go! #rctid https://t.co/2i0FHeCYa5— Merritt Paulson (@MerrittPaulson) June 10, 2020
For the MLS is Back Tournament, 26 MLS teams will be drawn into six groups on Thursday at 12:30 PT.
As the host team, Orlando City will be the "top seed" in the six-team group. The other seeds go to last season's four playoff semifinalists (Atlanta United, Toronto FC, Seattle Sounders, LAFC) and the team in the West that had the next-highest points total last season, which is Real Salt Lake.
The remaining 20 teams, including the Timbers, will be split at random into the six groups.
Teams will arrive in Orlando on June 24 to begin training with opening day slated for July 8. The group stage will go until July 23, with a day off before the round of 16 (July 25-28). The quarterfinals are expected to be held July 30-Aug. 1, the semifinals Aug. 5-6 and the championship on Aug. 11.
The MLS broke down safety protocols which must be followed, including changes to goal celebrations. Here are a few of the key measures:
- All clubs must arrive no later than seven days before their first match
- Polymerase Chain Reaction (PCR) tests will be issued to all essential members of the tournament this can detect an active COVID-19 infection. If a player or personnel test positive, they will not be allowed to travel and will be overseen by club medical staff.
- Only after receiving a negative test result, will players and staff be able to begin training.
- Tests will be given out every other day for the first 14 days following arrival to Orlando, in addition to selftemperature screenings and standardized screening questionnaires.
- Players, coaches and officials are asked to exercise care when spitting or clearing their nose.
- Players, coaches and officials located on the bench or technical area are required to wear masks and practice social distancing.
- During a game, players have been asked to not exchange jerseys or kiss the ball.
MLS is the first league to restart its season at Disney but aren’t expected to be the last. The NBA is also expected to resume the 2019-20 season on July 31 inside Walt Disney World's ESPN Wide World of Sports complex.