NEW YORK, NY., June 10, 2020 — Today, Major League Soccer announced that all 26 MLS clubs will be competing in the MLS is Back Tournament at ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex at Walt Disney World Resort in Florida beginning July 8. The tournament, which will be played without fans in attendance, will feature Group stage matches that will count in the 2020 MLS regular season standings. The tournament winner will earn 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,” 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.”
“Sports have the power to unify and inspire, particularly during challenging times,” said Josh D’Amaro, chairman, Disney Parks, Experiences and Products. “And we’re looking forward to bringing this exciting sport back to millions of fans, while prioritizing the health and well-being of the players, coaches and support staff as well as our cast members.”
According to Toronto FC, clubs have been told that they can 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.
In order to get all the games in, the tournament will feature a continuous schedule of matches nearly every day, similar to the FIFA World Cup, with games beginning at 9 a.m., 8 p.m. and 10:30 p.m. EDT. Fans can expect to watch the vast majority of the matches from the comforts of home during most evenings.
Each team plays three group stage matches, with the results counting towards 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 will take place on August 11. Matches tied at the end of regulation in the knock-out phase will proceed directly to a penalty kick shootout. Click HERE for the MLS is Back Tournament Competition Guidelines.
Seeded teams for each group
Each group will have a seeded team. As the “host” team, Orlando City SC will be the top seed in the six-team group. The remaining five seeds will be:
- East: Atlanta United (2019 Audi MLS Cup Playoffs semifinalist)
- East: Toronto FC (2019 Audi MLS Cup Playoffs semifinalist)
- West: LAFC (2019 Audi MLS Cup Playoffs semifinalist)
- West: Seattle Sounders (2019 Audi MLS Cup Playoffs semifinalist)
- West: Real Salt Lake (next highest points total in the Western Conference from 2019 season)
To determine which of the 20 unseeded clubs goes into which group, a representative from each of the six seeded clubs will participate in the draw by picking a number at random from their conference. Each number will correspond to a ball containing the name of an unseeded club that will join the seeded club’s group.
The MLS is Back Tournament winner will earn a spot in the 2021 Scotiabank Concacaf Champions League, regardless of whether it is a U.S. or Canadian club. The winner would replace the berth previously awarded to the MLS regular season points leader in the conference opposite of the 2020 Supporters’ Shield winner.
Players will have the opportunity to earn additional bonuses as part of a $1.1 million prize pool.
Five substitutions will be allowed along with a 23 player roster
The substitution limit for the tournament will follow the new protocol set by the IFAB and allow five substitutions per match. In addition, teams may name up to 23 players on each official match day roster. Also, the Professional Referees Organization (PRO) will have access to video review for all games.
Teams will be drawn into one of six groups
For the MLS is Back Tournament, the 26 MLS teams will be drawn into one of six groups during a live draw that will take place tomorrow, Thursday, June 11 at 3:30 p.m. EDT. For the remainder of the 2020 MLS season, Nashville SC will be moved to the Eastern Conference. 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.
In addition, the tournament schedule, national television partner networks, and other important details for the MLS is Back Tournament will be provided soon.
Toronto FC will play remainder of its regular season home matches at BMO Field
Upon completion of the MLS is Back Tournament, expect to see your beloved Toronto FC playing back at BMO Field (most likely to no fans) as the MLS says that it plans to continue its regular season with a revised schedule in home markets, followed by the Audi MLS Cup Playoffs and the 25th MLS Cup. According to TFC the schedule will be developed at a later date. The final number of matches and the schedule for the remainder of the 2020 MLS regular season will be announced in the coming weeks.
Toronto FC say, “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 MLS is Back Tournament. An overview of health, safety and medical protocols can be found HERE. In addition, MLS will make a contribution of serology (antibody) tests to Central Florida residents beginning June 18.”