Major League Soccer announced Wednesday it plans to restart the 2020 season with all 26 teams competing in the MLS is Back Tournament at the ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex at Walt Disney World Resort in Florida beginning July 8.
The World Cup-style tournament will be played without fans in attendance. The teams will be drawn into one of six groups Thursday. The Los Angeles Football Club will be among six seeded teams drawn into groups first.
The other seeded teams are the other semifinalists from the 2019 MLS Cup Playoffs — Atlanta United, Seattle Sounders FC and Toronto FC — Real Salt Lake, the team with the next highest points total in the Western Conference from the 2019 season, and the host club, Orlando City SC.
The Western Conference will have three groups of four teams. The Eastern Conference will have one group of six teams and two groups of four teams. Nashville will be included in the Eastern Conference for the tournament and the remainder of the 2020 MLS season.
Group stage matches will be played daily from July 8-23 and will count in the MLS regular season standings. The top two teams from each group along with the four best third-place finishers will move on to the knockout stage.
The knockout stage will include a round-of-16, quarterfinals and semifinals leading up to Aug. 11 championship match.
Matches tied at the end of regulation in the knockout phase will proceed directly to a penalty kick shootout. The substitution limit for the tournament will follow the new protocol set by the International Football Association Board and allow five substitutions per match, two more than usual.
The tournament winner will earn a spot in the 2021 Scotiabank Concacaf Champions League. Players will have the opportunity to earn additional bonuses as part of a $1.1 million prize pool.
Clubs will begin arriving in Orlando as early as June 24 for preseason training. Clubs that can conduct full team training in their markets pursuant to the league’s medical and testing protocols must arrive no later than seven days before their first match.
The MLS medical department and the league’s infectious disease experts have developed a comprehensive COVID-19 testing plan which will be implemented for the entire tournament.
“We are pleased to team up with Disney to relaunch the 2020 MLS season and get back to playing soccer,” said MLS Commissioner Don Garber. “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.
“We also recognize that the death of George Floyd and others has focused our country on issues of racial injustice, inequality and violence against black men and women. Together with our owners, players and staff, the league and its clubs are deeply committed to creating meaningful and impactful programs to address these issues that have plagued our society for far too long.”
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