Major League Soccer Will Return to Play First… Meaning a Big Opportunity for MN United and Others

Jesse Johnson | Credit: Jesse Johnson | Minnesota United FC

Major League Soccer and Minnesota United FC announced the league’s return to play plan on Wednesday. I wrote about it in more detail last week, but the plan comes with a ‘MLS is Back Tournament’ (strapped for creativity apparently), where all 26 clubs will compete in Orlando.

The tournament, which will place at the ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex at Walt Disney World, will begin July 8th with no fans. Group stage matches will count towards the league’s regular season standings and the winners will receive a spot in the 2021 Scotiabank CONCACAF Champions League.

“We are pleased to team up with Disney to relaunch the 2020 MLS season and get back to playing soccer. 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.”

MLS Commissioner Don Garber

Honestly, I don’t even care about the Champions League bid. Just give me some Loons soccer to watch and cheer for!

Once the tournament is finished, the MLS anticipates a revised version of its 2020 season, complete with playoffs and the league’s 25th MLS Cup. The schedule isn’t yet set, but the league plans to release it in the next few weeks.

The MLS has been consulting with medical professionals about ongoing COVID-19 risks and have developed a testing plan, which will be implemented for the duration of the Orlando tournament. Antibody tests will also be donated to residents of Central Florida, starting June 18th.

Return to Play Tournament Format

In a style similar to the FIFA World Cup, teams will each play three group stage matches, which will count towards the regular season. The top two teams from each group, along with the four best third-place finishers, advance to the knockout round.

The knockout round will consist of a Round-of-16, Quarterfinals, Semifinals, and a Championship match. The entire round will take place on August 11th. Any tied matches will immediately go to penalty kicks in the knockout round.

Players will have the opportunity to earn contract bonuses that will pull from a $1.1 million prize pool. You can read all the additional rules to the tournament here.

Key Dates and Group Selection

A live draw will take place on Thursday, June 11th to determine the groups. Each conference will have three groups. The Eastern Conference will have one group with six teams and two groups with four teams. The Western Conference’s groups will each have four teams.

As the host, Orlando City SC will be granted the top seed in Group A and will play in the first match on July 8th. The five remaining seeded teams will be the four semifinalists from the 2019 season — Atlanta United, LAFC, Seattle Sounders, Toronto FC, and Real Salt Lake.

Overall, the tournament will have 54 matches; 39 in group play and 15 in the knockout tournament. These matches will be played over a 26 day span. The minimum number of games a club will play is three, with the maximum being seven.

So, what are the odds we get Eric to wear a soccer scarf to Brit’s, downtown, for some of this sweet, sweet, European Kickball?

[Eric’s Editing Note: Slim to none… but if I get to leave my house, I might do anything.]

Jack Kewitsch | Minnesota Sports Fan

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