On the heels of the NWSL returning to competitive play as the pioneers who provided the first live domestic games for fans to enjoy, Major League Soccer is making its return as well in the form of the MLS is Back Tournament in Orlando, Florida.
Five days before the boys in Old Glory Red return home to take on Tacoma Defiance at Papa Murphy’s Park, most MLS clubs will begin their respective campaigns at ESPN Wide World of Sports at Disney World Resort with the tournament scheduled to kick off on July 8.
Soccer fans rejoice because the competition features over two weeks of consecutive soccer matches on major networks, and that’s just the group stage fixtures. With up to three games per day, nonstop MLS action will begin as early in the day as 6 a.m. PT to avoid the humid Florida heat and resume in the evenings. The full match schedule can be found here.
MLS set up a number of safety protocols to do its best to prevent a coronavirus among the teams on site by doing regular temperature testing, practicing social distancing and constant use of face masks. When not competing or training, players will be quarantined in their team hotels as the health and safety of the players is the league’s primary concern.
Over the course of 26 match days, 25 teams – FC Dallas was the lone club withdrawn following positive COVID-19 tests by players and staff – will compete in a FIFA World Cup-style competition featuring a slew of games almost every day with all teams split into six groups.
Teams will be allowed five substitutions and the gameday roster will be allowed to include as many as 23 players. Full video review will be available to the referees and fans will not be allowed to attend any matches during the tournament.
Each of the group-stage games will count for points toward the 2020 regular-season standings. The winner of the MLS is Back Tournament will earn a spot in the 2021 Scotiabank Concacaf Champions League. The league plans to continue its regular season with a revised schedule followed by the Audio MLS Cup Playoffs and the 25thMLS Cup.
The final of the competition is slated for August 11 with a Western Conference club set to clash against an Eastern Conference opposition.
Leading off the competition will be the hosts – Orlando City SC – against David Beckham’s new boys Inter Miami at 5 p.m. PT Wednesday evening on ESPN in what could be a blossoming Floridian rivalry. Unlike Bundesliga broadcasts, fake crowd noise will not be included in the matchday audio but drones embedded mics in the field will be an innovative new way for fans to enjoy the action.
The tournament will surely have a unique feel to it but thankfully the derbies domestic soccer fans crave will still be in full force – even the coveted annual Canadian clash between Montreal Impact and Toronto FC scheduled for July 15 with Thierry Henry at the helm for Impact against the Eastern Conference juggernauts. Three days later, El Trafico makes its appearance in Florida when LA Galaxy and LAFC put on their spectacle that never seems to lack drama or goals.
It’s been noted that only a small handful of players opted not to partake in the MLS is Back Tournament but plenty of big name stars are lacing up their boots for the first-time competition including LAFC’s Diego Rossi, LA Galaxy’s Javier ‘Chicharito’ Hernandez, Inter Miami’s Rodolfo Pizarro and Atlanta United’s Gonzalo Martinez will be putting their world-class skills on full display for fans to see.
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