MLS on Wednesday morning officially announced the details of its return-to-play tournament set to be played at the ESPN Wide World of Sports complex at Walt Disney World outside of Orlando. Per a release from the league, the MLS Is Back Tournament is scheduled to begin July 8, with the final to be held on August 11.
- Teams will begin to arrive in Orlando on June 24, 2 weeks before the tournament begins, with a deadline to report no later than a week before its first match.
- The league’s 26 clubs will be drawn into 6 groups, with each conference divided into 3 groups - the Eastern Conference will have 1 group of 6 and 2 groups of 4, while the West will have 3 groups of 4. (Nashville SC will be placed in the East for rest of the year.) Orlando City will be placed as the top-seed club in Group A as the host, while Atlanta United will be the top seed in its group as a playoff semifinalist last year.
- Clubs will be allowed an expanded 23-man match day roster, up from the usual 18.
- 5 substitutes will be allowed per match in keeping with FIFA’s new regulations, with clubs being allowed 3 chances to make those 5 subs during the match. Halftime subs won’t count toward those 3 chances.
- Each team will play 3 group stage matches that will count toward their regular season standings; group stage matches will be played at 9 a.m., 8 p.m. and 10:30 p.m. (!). The top 2 finishers in each group and the top 4 3rd-place finishers will move on to the knockout stage, with the final set for August 11. The winner will gain a spot in the 2021 Concacaf Champions League.
- The league has unveiled a detailed health and safety plan to be used for the competition, including 2 COVID-19 tests a week and regular temperature screenings.
- MLS also announced that it will play a “revised” schedule to complete the 2020 regular season, set to be “announced in the coming weeks”.
So it’s officially official now. What are your overall thoughts? Chime in down in the comments and let us know.