Major League Soccer is coming back very soon. On Wednesday, MLS announced its plans for returning to play amid the COVID-19 pandemic. The league will resume the 2020 season on July 8 with a World Cup-style tournament, which will be called MLS Is Back Tournament.
"We are pleased to team up with Disney to relaunch the 2020 MLS season and get back to playing soccer," MLS commissioner Don Garber said in a press release. "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." As mentioned, all 26 teams will take part in the tournament, which will be played at the ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex at the Walt Disney World Resort outside of Orlando, Florida. The teams will start arriving in Orlando on June 24, but some teams will arrive later in order to train at their home market. Teams have to arrive in Orlando seven days before their first match.
How will this tournament work? All 26 teams will be split into six groups. The Eastern Conference will have three groups, one with six teams and two with four teams. The Western Conference will have three groups with four teams each. Every team will play three group stage matches in 16 consecutive days. The two teams from each group and the four third-place finishers will advance to the knockout stage, which will begin on July 25 with the Round of 16. The Tournament Semifinals will begin on Aug. 5 and the championship game will be played on Aug. 11.
According to ESPN, Orlando City SC will be awarded the top seed in Group A and will play in the first match on July 8. The five remaining seeds will be the teams from the 2019 MLS Cup playoffs semifinals - Atlanta United, LAFC, Seattle Sounders FC and Toronto FC — and Real Salt Lake, which had the next-highest point total from last year. For the group stage, there will be three matches each day — one at 9 a.m. 8 p.m. and 10:30 p.m.
Once the MLS is back Tournament is over, the league plans to resume its regular season with a revised schedule. That will be followed by MLS Cup playoffs, and the dates of those will be announced soon.