Major League Soccer will return from the COVID-19 shutdown on July 8 with a 54-match tournament that will span over the course of 35 days, the league announced on Wednesday. The MLS is Back Tournament will take place at the ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex at Walt Disney World Resort in Lake Buena Vista, Florida, with no spectators. All 26 teams will be back in action in games that count toward the regular season standings. The winner of the tournament earns a spot at the 2021 CONCACAF Champions League and features 16 straight days of games in the group stage.
“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 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 CBS Sports reported on June 3, teams will arrive on June 24 for preseason training and COVID-19 testing and there will be a World Cup-style competition with six groups, a round of 16, quarterfinal, semifinal and final. There will be 54 total matches and 26 matchdays. Here’s everything you need to know:
- July 8: Group stage begins
- July 25-28: Round of 16
- July 30-Aug. 1: Quarterfinals
- Aug. 5-6: Semifinals
- Aug. 11: Tournament final
What’s the incentive?
In addition to there being a CCL berth on the line, players will also have the opportunity to earn additional bonuses as part of a $1.1 million prize pool, the league announced.
What does this mean for the regular season?
Consider this tournament as part of the regular season and a test run when it comes to health and safety protocols moving forward. The league plans to hold the regular season after this competition in some capacity in the home markets. It would be a reduced regular season in relation to the games that were remaining, but the plan would still include having the MLS playoffs as well. MLS’ goal is to have this regular season and playoffs completed by the end of the calendar year but government regulations and health expert recommendations will ultimately determine how the league proceeds.