Major League Soccer is officially returning and is heading to the Walt Disney World Resort in Florida as a way to resume play in 2020.
The MLS is Back Tournament is the first time the league is slated to play since the season was suspended due to COVID-19 on March 12. It is set to kick off July 8 and will run until August 11.
The entirety of this tournament will be held at ESPN Wide World of Sports, where there 54 matches (39 group stage, 15 knockout round) will be played. All 26 MLS teams will be participating in the event, where the minimum of matches per club is set at three and the maximum is seven per finalist.
Teams will start arriving at the location on June 24, but the group stage will officially begin on July 8. After the initial stage, a round of 16 will follow suit that is set to take place July 25-28. Quarterfinals are slated from July 30-August 1, semifinals will be held August 5-6 and the tournament will conclude with their final game on August 11.
According to MLS, “The tournament will feature a continuous schedule of matches nearly every day, with games beginning at 9 a.m., 8 p.m. and 10:30 p.m. EST, with the majority of matches to be played in the evening.”
The full game schedule release will be following a tournament draw that is set to take place Thursday, June 11 at 3:30 p.m. EST. You can watch this live on MLSsoccer.com and other social platforms from the league.
Now, while this will be separate from the regular season, play will still be factored in once the tournament wraps up. All 39 group stage games will be counted for points toward the regular season standings. Winner of the entire event will earn a spot in the 2021 Scotiabank Concacaf Champions League — whether it be a U.S. of Canadian team. For the 2020 season, this will replace who is traditionally deemed the regular season conference leader.
There is also an opportunity for players to earn additional bonuses as part of a $1.1 million price pool.
Following the conclusion of the MLS is Back Tournament, the league will continue its regular season. Though it will be a revised schedule set to be developed at a later date, it will ultimately lead to the Audi MLS Cup Playoffs and the 25th MLS Cup.
Health and safety protocols
A medical department has been developed by the league and has been in consultation with infectious disease specialists, government officials and public health entities — all in an effort to focus on the safety of all who will be involved (players, coaches, officials and staff).
Here are a few key points from MLS, breaking down protocols that must be followed:
- 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 self-temperature 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.
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