Soccer

MLS to host MLS is Back Tournament beginning July 8 in Orlando

MLS to host MLS is Back Tournament beginning July 8 in Orlando

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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Report: F.C. Barcelona sacks manager after blowout loss to Bayern Munich in Champions League quarterfinals

Report: F.C. Barcelona sacks manager after blowout loss to Bayern Munich in Champions League quarterfinals

Sometimes in life, things come at you fast.

On Friday morning, Quique Setién was the manager of one of the best soccer teams in the world. Hours later, he's reportedly out of a job.

F.C. Barcelona have decided to reportedly sack Setién following the club's blowout 8-2 loss to Bayern Munich in the UEFA Champions League quarterfinals on Friday, according to Fabrizio Romano of Sky Sports.

Setién's tenure in Barcelona was a short one; he replaced Ernesto Valverde just this past January. Expectations are high in the Catalonian capital; failure to deliver at a club like Barcelona will result in what has happened to Setién on Friday.

With Friday's loss, Barcelona will go a full season without a trophy for the first time since 2007-08. To put that into perspective for Americans, George W. Bush was the President of the United States the last time Barcelona went a calendar year trophy-less.

The loss was also Barcelona's third consecutive exit from Champions League in an embarrassing fashion.

Last year, the Spanish side had a 3-0 lead over Liverpool in the UCL semifinals before falling 4-0 in the second leg. To make matters worse, Liverpool were without two top forwards in the match, Mohamed Salah and Roberto Firmino.

In 2018, Barcelona blew a 4-1 lead on aggregate to A.S. Roma in the Champions League quarterfinals. Roma defeated Barcelona 3-0 in the second leg, advancing on away goals. It was a night everyone in The Eternal City (including the person writing this who was in attendance at Stadio Olympico) will never forget.

Barcelona's Champions League exit marks the official end of a year to forget for the club.

When the 2019-20 season was paused in March due to the coronavirus pandemic, Barcelona was in a solid position for a title run both in Spain and across Europe. But since the team returned to action, the club has played a brand of soccer they want to forget.

When the La Liga season was paused in March, Barcelona held a two-point lead over rival Real Madrid atop the table. When the Spanish league returned in June, inconsistent play from Barcelona allowed Real Madrid to jump them in the table and eventually win La Liga.

Friday's embarrassing loss to Bayern Munich, ending the club's Champions League hopes, was just the cherry on top of a horrific couple months for the club.

Rumors swirled earlier this month that Lionel Messi, arguably the greatest player of all-time and a Barcelona lifer thus far, wants out. The world's greatest player for more than a decade just turned 33 in June. Barcelona has yet to hit rock bottom yet, but what once seemed unthinkable could be the reality for the club should Messi move on.

D.C. United to return to Audi Field as MLS will host local matches beginning August 12

D.C. United to return to Audi Field as MLS will host local matches beginning August 12

Following the conclusion of the MLS is Back Tournament, MLS will continue its 25th season by having teams compete in their local markets, the league announced on Saturday.

Thus, D.C. United will be returning to Audi Field for regular-season action. The team will open up on the road against FC Cincinnati on Friday, August 21, before having its home opener on Tuesday, August 25, against the New England Revolution. For at least the beginning of the season, no fans will be in attendance. 

“I would like to thank everyone involved with the MLS is Back Tournament -- players, coaches, staff and partners -- for their role in helping us recapture the momentum we had at the beginning of our 25th season and reconnect with our passionate fans,” MLS Commissioner Don Garber said in a statement. “Since suspending play in March, we have been working on plans to play as much of our season as possible, beginning with the tournament in Florida and resuming in our local markets following the competition. We remain focused on the health and safety of our players, coaches and staff, and look forward to continuing our season in our home markets.”

Though the league is planning to allow teams to travel after holding the tournament in a bubble, it doesn't mean protocols will lessen in the midst of the ongoing coronavirus pandemic. Players will continue to be tested every other day and are strongly advised to limit exposure outside of team facilities and mandated areas.

However, a major complication is how the three Canadian teams (Toronto, Montreal and Vancouver) will handle the season. Much like how the Toronto Blue Jays had to relocate to Buffalo to play the MLB season, Canada still has tight restrictions in place when it comes to leaving the country and coming back.

MLS states that it will have a clearer picture of the schedule in September, but initially plans to have U.S. teams only square off against one another. That may lead to the three teams north of the border only playing one another for the beginning of the season. PLans there remain uncertain. 

As it stands now, the league is set to kick off on August 12 and each team will play 18 games. Decision Day will be on November 8, and 18 teams will enter the playoffs. That number is four more than last season. The MLS Cup will take place on December 12. 

The MLS is Back Tournament is set to come to a conclusion on August 11 and the Portland Timbers will take on Orlando City for the title on August 11. D.C. United did not reach the knockout stage after finishing last in their group.

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