Nashville, Tenn. (WKRN) – Major League Soccer is leading the way when it comes to getting back on the field. On Wednesday, the league unveiled its plans for returning to play in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, with the league set to resume on July 8 with what it’s calling the ‘MLS is Back Tournament.’
All 26 MLS teams will participate in the competition, which will be held at the ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex at the Walt Disney World Resort, right outside of Orlando, Florida.
MLS commissioner Don Gerber said, “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.”
While most teams prefer training in their home markets, some will start traveling to Orlando on June 24, and teams must arrive no later than seven days before their first match.
When it comes to what the tournament layout, things will begin with a group stage with each team playing three matches, followed by a knockout stage. The final will be played Aug. 11. The teams will be divided into a total of six groups, with the top two teams in each group, plus the four best third-place finishers qualifying for the round of 16.
Also on Wednesday, Nashville SC announced it will be moved to the Eastern Conference for the remainder of the 2020 season. 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.
All of the group stage matches will count in the regular-season standings, with the winner of the tournament earning a spot in the CONCACAF Champions League, regardless of whether it is a U.S. or Canadian club.
MLS does plan to continue its regular season with a revised schedule in home markets. The MLS Cup playoffs and the 25th MLS Cup will follow, with dates still to be determined.