MLS will host an innovative tournament called the "MLS is Back Tournament" at ESPN Wide World of Sports at Disney World Resort in Florida beginning on July 8, the league announced on Wednesday.
"The opportunity to have all 26 clubs in a controlled environment enables us to help protect the health of our players, coaches and staff as we return to play," MLS commissioner Don Garber said in a statement.
The tournament, which will run through August 11, will mimic the style of a FIFA World Cup event but features rewards such as prize money and a spot in the 2021 Scotiabank Concacaf Champions League. All 26 MLS teams will participate in the group stage of the tournament, which consists of six total groups with three for each conference. Both the Eastern and Western conferences will have one group of six teams and two groups of four teams. Drawings will take place on June 11 with seeding based on 2019 success, though Orlando City SC will be a top seed as they are the host.
From there, every team will play three games in the preliminary stage of the tournament. The two top finishers in each group, along with the four best third-place teams will advance to the knockout stage of the tournament. From there, one champion of the MLS is Back Tournament will be crowned.
The tournament is not just for fun as there is a lot to be earned for every team involved. Points from the group games will carry over to the regular season, while the winner of the tournament will earn an automatic bid to the 2021 Concacaf Champions League. Players can also earn additional money. There is a $1.1 million prize pool.
Taking place during the ongoing coronavirus pandemic, MLS has numerous safety measures put in place. Players will be tested before and during the tournament and the league already has an isolation unit should a player test positive.
Following the tournament, MLS aims to continue the 2020 season and playoffs, though a timetable for that return has not yet been announced.
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