Major League Soccer announced June 10 the league’s plan to restart the 2020 season with all 26 MLS clubs – including Columbus Crew SC – competing in the MLS is Back Tournament.
The tournament, which begins July 8 at ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex at Walt Disney World Resort in Orlando, Fla., will be played without fans in attendance.
Group stage matches will count in the MLS regular season standings, and the tournament winner will earn a spot in the 2021 Scotiabank Concacaf Champions League, according to a news release.
Clubs will begin arriving in Orlando as early as June 24 for preseason training. Clubs that can conduct full team training in their markets must arrive no later than seven days before their first match to comply with the league’s medical and testing protocols.
“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, in the 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. 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.”
Similar to a FIFA World Cup format, the tournament will have a continuous schedule of matches almost daily, with games beginning at 9 a.m., 8 p.m. and 10:30 p.m. Eastern time. The majority of the matches will be played in the evening, the release said.
Each team will play three group stage matches, which will count in the 2020 MLS regular season standings. After 16 consecutive days of group stage matches, 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, semifinals and the championship match that will take place Aug. 11.
Matches tied at the end of regulation in the knock-out phase will proceed directly to a penalty kick shootout.
MLS worked with U.S. Soccer, Canada Soccer and Concacaf to institute a one-time change to MLS spots to the annual Scotiabank Concacaf Champions League. The MLS is Back Tournament winner will earn the spot in the 2021 Scotiabank Concacaf Champions League, regardless of whether it is a U.S. or Canadian club. The winner would replace the spot previously awarded to the MLS regular season points leader in the conference opposite of the 2020 Supporters’ Shield winner.
In addition to matches that count in the regular season standings and the Champions League spot, players will have the opportunity to earn additional bonuses as part of a $1.1 million prize pool, the release said.