Major League Soccer is preparing its comeback. Days after the league announced that an agreement had been reached between players and executives, details have emerged as to how exactly competition will resume after a months-long suspension.
All 26 clubs will reconvene at the Disney-owned ESPN Wide World of Sports complex in Orlando for the MLS is Back Tournament, beginning July 8. The tournament will stretch just over a month before teams will reportedly retreat back to their home markets to complete a revised regular season schedule.
“We are pleased to team up with Disney to relaunch the 2020 MLS season and get back to playing soccer,” MLS commissioner Don Garber said in a statement. “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.”
Play will launch July 8 with a group stage consisting of three matches per team. From there, a knockout stage will be played and six groups of teams (three groups per conference) will battle it out to make the August 11 final.
On the line is a spot in the CONCACAF Champions League, which will be awarded to the tournament’s winning club. All group-stage matches will count towards the regular season standings which have so far only seen two weeks worth of action before the season was suspended mid-March. Players will also have the opportunity to earn additional bonuses as part of a $1.1 million prize pool. The extensive tournament will overall consist of 54 matches over the course of four weeks.
Games will be played behind closed doors though will be broadcasted with “experimental technologies” focused on producing a unique viewing experience. The league has also detailed an extensive list of safety protocols for players and personnel traveling, including issuing COVID-19 tests and implementing strict hygiene measures.