The 2020 Major League Soccer season will restart on July 8 after organizers confirmed plans for a month-long tournament to reignite the competition, concluding on August 11.
All 26 teams will participate in the five-stage tournament at ESPN’s Wide World of Sports Complex at Walt Disney World Resort in Orlando, Florida. Clubs were placed into groups within each conference during Thursday's draw:
A place in the 2021 CONCACAF Champions League is on offer to the winner of the tournament. Matches will count toward the 2020 regular season, with the campaign to continue after the tournament has concluded.
This year’s MLS campaign was first suspended on March 12 due to the COVID-19 pandemic, with each team having played only two games prior to lockdown. The United States has recorded more coronavirus-related deaths than any other country, with at least 112,000 people having died from the respiratory illness as of Wednesday, per the Center for Systems Science and Engineering (CSSE) at Johns Hopkins University.
MLS Commissioner, Don Garber, published a statement acknowledging the recent death of George Floyd and how it’s affected the national discourse:
“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.”
MLS Tournament Schedule
Group Stage: July 8
Round of 16: July 25-28
Quarter-Finals: July 30-August 1
Semi-Finals: August 5-6
Final: August 11
Safety protocols demand each team must arrive at the Wide World of Sports Complex at least seven days before their first game. All essential club members (including players and staff) will undergo antibody tests prior to arrival, as well as two “Polymerase Chain Reaction (PCR) tests 24 hours apart” to detect an active infection. Those who test positive for the coronavirus will be prevented from travelling to Orlando, while those who make the trip will undergo another PCR test upon arrival.
Essential members will be tested every two days for the first fortnight of their stay at the tournament, as well being tested the day before each fixture.
Any player who returns a positive test will be put into isolation at a designated area of one of the team hotels, while contact tracing is also compulsory in those cases. Any non-virus-related injuries will be assessed by club medical staff, though MLS has made arrangements with “hospitals and facilities in close proximity to team hotels and training fields.”
The Seattle Sounders were crowned 2019 MLS Cup champions after beating Toronto FC in last year’s final, with the club hoping to win a third title in the space of five seasons.