Major League Soccer (MLS) will return from a suspension caused by the novel coronavirus (Covid-19) pandemic, for a new tournament starting on 8 July that will form part of the 2020 MLS season.
The MLS Is Back Tournament, like the remainder of the NBA season, will be held at ESPN Wide World of Sports at Disney World Resort in Florida.
The league’s 26 teams will be drawn into six groups. The Eastern Conference will have three groups, one consisting of six teams and two consisting of four teams each.
The Western Conference will have three groups, each consisting of four teams. Nashville SC will move from the Western Conference to the Eastern for both the tournament and the remainder of the 2020 MLS season in order to facilitate this.
2019 MLS Cup semi-finalists, Atlanta United, Los Angeles Football Club, Seattle Sounders FC and Toronto FC, alongside host club Orlando City and the best-performing Western conference team that did not make the semi-finals, Real Salt Lake, will all be seeded and placed in separate groups.
Each team, even those in the group of six in which Orlando City will be the seeded team, will play three group stage matches
The top two teams from each group, plus the four best third-place finishers, will advance to the knockout stage. This will begin on 25 July and end with the final on 11 August. If knockout matches are drawn, extra time will not be played and matches will go directly to a penalty shoot-out instead.
In addition, group stage games will count towards points for the 2020 MLS regular season, which the league expects to be completed with a truncated schedule with matches at teams’ home grounds. The 2020 season was initially suspended on 12 March, just two weeks after kicking off.
This new schedule will be developed at a later date in the coming weeks.
The tournament winner will earn a spot in the 2021 Concacaf Champions League, replacing the spot that typically goes to the regular-season conference champion that secured the least points.
As with other leagues returning to action, five substitutions will be permitted, which can be made at three points in time.
All players and staff will be tested every other day for the first two weeks, and “regularly” after this, including the day before each match.