MLS tournament in Orlando could start as early as July 9; format could split teams into six groups

Major League Soccer is still finalizing its return-to-play plans after the league and players association reached a deal on Wednesday, and details are slowly trickling in as to how the proposed tournament format in Orlando could look like. All of the dates and plans are dependent on a variety of factors, nothing more so than the safety and well being of players and others involved in the competition. 

In a proposed schedule that was sent to MLS clubs last week, the league is targeting a July 9 start date, sources tell CBS Sports. The proposed format would include six groups — three groups for the Eastern Conference and three for the Western Conference — to bring a World Cup-style group stage. With 26 teams between two conferences, we could potentially see four groups of four teams and two of five.

Players would arrive on June 24 for processing and COVID-19 testing, there would be team training from June 25 to July 8, and then action would begin. Here are some of the proposed dates obtained, according to an internal memo obtained by CBS Sports:

  • June 24: Arrival/testing for all 26 teams
  • June 25-July 8: Team training period
  • Tournament start date not confirmed, though it should start after the training period
  • July 23: Group stage ends — 10 teams eliminated and 16 remain in Orlando
  • July 24-28: Round of 16 — eight teams remain after this round 
  • July 29-Aug. 1: Quarterfinals — four teams remain after this round  
  • Aug. 2-5: Semifinals — two teams remain after this round
  • Aug. 6-9: Championship

The teams would depart at the conclusion of the round in which they are eliminated. The schedule and specific format for the initial round or group stage is not yet known. 

MLS commissioner Don Garber met with media members Wednesday on a video call to announce the new agreement between the league and the Players Association. Garber confirmed plans for a tournament in Orlando, but couldn’t share any details other than the competition lasting “a maximum of 35 days.” That would line up with the end of the proposed training period and the final.

The league and players made a significant step toward playing out the season with the deal reached on Wednesday, now it’s all about ironing out details to get play back underway in a safe environment. 

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