In the days after the rapid spread of COVID-19 around the world by the World Health Organization was declared a global pandemic, every major sports organization in the world closed its activities in the hope that quarantine participation would help prevent the disease even greater damage.
Until recently, the only top sports leagues to have successfully returned to football included the Bundesliga, Premier League and La Liga in Europe, NWSL here in the United States.
Major League Soccer launched its attempt with the MLS is Back Tournament this week.
The league determined the quickest route to get its players back into action and taking to the field would be to create a “bubble” in a particular location with enough hotel space and practice fields to accommodate all teams. That brought them to Orlando and the ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex. It seemed like a good idea at the time.
However, Florida gradually became (and quickly thereafter) one of the hottest areas of the country regarding the spread of the coronavirus, raising concerns about officials’ ability to prevent COVID-19 from entering the MLS bubble.
That didn’t help when several members of the FC Dallas squad tested positive for the virus after arriving in Orlando and several more were discovered in the following days. On Monday, Dallas was excused for the tournament. The league eventually added Nashville SC to the withdrawn list, after a total of nine players tested positive and the team had to stop training. The Colorado Rapids delayed their flight to Orlando because of two positive tests. Because of the two shots, the Chicago Fire was moved from Group A to Group B, giving the tournament six groups of four teams.
Overall, however, MLS has had relatively few players take positive COVID tests and should be able to complete their tournament – as long as the bubble approach limits the virus to the outside world.
All matches of the group stage of the tournament count towards the regular season records of teams. MLS hopes to resume competition in home locations (with or without spectators) upon completion of the MLS is Back tournament.
When does the MLS is Back tournament begin?
The opening game was Wednesday, July 8, and corresponded with Orlando City and Inter Miami CF, one of the two new franchises in the league for 2020. Both teams played two games when the league ended in early March.
Orlando City, led by longtime Nani international from Manchester United, had split the first two games. Inter has a potential league star in midfielder Rodolfo Pizarro and is still looking for his first MLS win. Nani finished the winning goal in extra time for a 2-1 win in Orlando City.
The first morning game, which matched the Philadelphia Union and New York City FC, took place on Thursday, July 9, with the Union winning 1-0.
The first start of the “West Coast”, which kicked off at 10:30 PM ET, was on July 11, a Hell is Real Derby between FC Cincinnati and the Columbus Crew. The Crew rolled into a 4-0 win.
MORE: The FC Dallas removal is not a sign that MLS’s Back tournament should go
MLS is back on schedule 2020
- Group game: July 8-23
- Round of 16: July 25-28
- Quarter-finals: July 30 – Aug. 1
- Semi-finals: August 5-6
- Championship: August 11
|Date||Matching||Kick-off time (ET)||TV|
|8 July||Orlando City vs. Inter Miami CF||8 pm||ESPN / TSN|
|July 9||New York City FC vs. Philadelphia Union||9 o’clock||ESPN / TSN|
|July 9||Montreal Impact vs. New England Revolution||8 pm||TUDN / TSN|
|10th of July||Seattle Sounders vs. San Jose Earthquakes||9 o’clock in the evening||ESPN / TSN|
|July 11||Atlanta United versus Red Bulls from New York||8 pm||Fox / TUDN / TSN|
|July 11||FC Cincinnati against Columbus Crew||10.30 pm||FS1 / TUDN / TSN|
|July 12th||Kansas City vs. Sporting Minnesota United||8 pm||ESPN / TSN|
|July 12th||Real Salt Lake vs. Colorado Rapids||10.30 pm||ESPN / TSN|
|July 13||Toronto FC against DC United||9 o’clock||ESPN2 / TSN|
|July 13||Los Angeles FC vs. Houston Dynamo||8 pm||FS1 / TUDN / TSN|
|July 13||LA Galaxy vs. Portland Timbers||10.30 pm||FS1 / TUDN / TSN|
|14th of July||Chicago Fire vs. Seattle Sounders||9 o’clock||ESPN / TSN|
|14th of July||Orlando City vs. New York City FC||8 pm||TUDN / TSN|
|14th of July||Philadelphia Union vs. Inter Miami CF||10.30 pm||TUDN / TSN|
|July 15||Montreal Impact against Toronto FC||8 pm||TUDN / TSN|
|July 15||Vancouver Whitecaps vs. earthquakes in San Jose||10.30 pm||TUDN / TSN|
|16th of July||Atlanta United against FC Cincinnati||9 o’clock||ESPN / TSN|
|16th of July||DC United vs. New England Revolution||8 pm||FS1 / TUDN / TSN|
|16th of July||Columbus Crew vs. New York Red Bulls||10.30 pm||FS1 / TUDN / TSN|
|July 17||Kansas City vs. Sporting Colorado Rapids||8 pm||ESPN / TSN|
|July 17||Real Salt Lake vs. Minnesota United||10.30 pm||ESPN / TSN|
|July 18||Portland Timbers vs. Houston Dynamo||8 pm||ESPN / TSN|
|July 18||Los Angeles FC against LA Galaxy||10.30 pm||ESPN / TSN|
|July 19||Chicago Fire vs. San Jose earthquakes||8 pm||FS1 / TUDN / TSN|
|July 19||Seattle Sounders vs. Vancouver Whitecaps||10.30 pm||FS1 / TUDN / TSN|
|July 20||Inter Miami CF vs. New York City FC||9 o’clock||ESPN / TSN|
|July 20||Philadelphia Union vs. Orlando City||8 pm||TUDN / TSN|
|21 July||Toronto FC vs. New England Revolution||9 o’clock||ESPN / TSN|
|21 July||Atlanta United vs. Columbus Crew||8 pm||TUDN / TSN|
|21 July||Montreal Impact vs. DC United||10.30 pm||TUDN / TSN|
|July 22||Real Salt Lake vs. Sporting Kansas City||9 o’clock||ESPN / TSN|
|July 22||FC Cincinnati vs. New York Red Bulls||8 pm||ESPN / TSN|
|July 22||Colorado Rapids vs. Minnesota United||10.30 pm||ESPN / TSN|
|July 23||Chicago Fire vs. Vancouver Whitecaps||9 o’clock||ESPN / TSN|
|July 23||LA Galaxy vs. Houston Dynamo||8 pm||FS1 / TUDN / TSN|
|July 23||Los Angeles FC vs. Portland Timbers||10.30 pm||ESPN 2 / TSN|
Round of 16
|Date||Time (ET)||Game||TV / live stream|
|July 25||8 pm||Orlando City vs. Montreal Impact (Match 37)||ESPN 2 (US), TSN (CAN)|
|July 25||10.30 pm||Philadelphia Union vs. New England Revolution (match 38)||ESPN 2 (US), TSN (CAN)|
|July 26||8:30 in the evening||Toronto FC vs. New York City FC (match 39)||FS1 / fuboTV (US), TSN (CAN)|
|July 26||11 pm||Kansas City vs. Sporting Vancouver Whitecaps (Match 40)||FS1 / fubo / TV (US), TSN (CAN)|
|July 27||8:30 in the evening||San Jose Earthquakes vs. Real Salt Lake (Match 41)||FS1 / fuboTV (US), TSN (CAN)|
|July 27||11 pm||Seattle Sounders vs. Los Angeles FC (match 42)||FS1 / fuboTV (US), TSN (CAN)|
|July 28||8 pm||Columbus Crew vs. Minnesota United (Match 43)||ESPN (US), TSN (CAN)|
|July 28||10.30 pm||Portland Timbers vs. FC Cincinnati (match 44)||ESPN (US), TSN (CAN)|
|July 30||8 pm||Winner Match 38 vs. Winner Match 40||ESPN (US), TSN (CAN)|
|July 31||7:30 PM||Winner Match 37 vs. Winner Match 42||FS1 (US), TSN (CAN)|
|1 August||8 pm||Winner Match 41 vs. Winner Match 43||ESPN 2 (US), TSN (CAN)|
|1 August||10.30 pm||Winner Match 39 vs. Winner Match 44||FS1 (US), TSN (CAN)|
August 5, 8:00 PM, FS1 (US), TSN (CAN)
August 6, 8:00 PM, ESPN 2 (US), TSN (CAN)
August 11, 8:00 PM, ESPN (US), TSN (CAN)
What channel are MLS games on?
- U.S: ESPN, ESPN2, Fox, FS1 and TUDN
- Canada: TSN
MLS games are televised on the ESPN and Fox networks, along with TUDN in the US and TSN in Canada.
Games on Fox, FS1 and TUDN in the US are also available to stream via fuboTV, which offers a seven-day free trial.
Explanation of the MLS is Back format, groups
The MLS Back Tournament is similar to a World Cup – a World Cup with 24 teams.
There are 24 teams in the tournament after the departure of FC Dallas and Nashville SC, and MLS had to change the original format. There are six groups, with Eastern Conference teams divided into Groups A, C, and E. Western Conference teams are divided into Groups B, D, and F, with the exception of the Chicago Fire, an Eastern team that has been moved to Group B to take into account the recordings. Each team plays three group stage matches.
The top two teams in each group advance to the knockout round of 16 teams.
The remaining four places are occupied by the teams that finish third with the most points.
The knockout rounds start with the round of 16 between July 25 and 28, with two matches every day. The championship game will be played on August 11. The winner automatically gains access to the CONCACAF Champions League 2021.
Here’s how the teams are broken down by group:
|group A.||Group C||Group E|
|Orlando City SC||Toronto FC||Atlanta United|
|Inter Miami CF||New England Revolution||FC Cincinnati|
|New York City FC||Montreal Impact||New York Red Bulls|
|Philadelphia Union||DC United||Columbus Crew|
|Group B||Group D||Group F|
|Seattle Sounders||Truly Salt Lake||Los Angeles FC|
|Fire in Chicago||Sporty KC||LA Galaxy|
|Vancouver Whitecaps||Colorado Rapids||Houston Dynamo|
|San Jose earthquakes||Minnesota United||Portland Timbers|
Where is the MLS is Back tournament?
- MLS is Back site: Orlando, Fla.
The tournament will be held at the ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex in Orlando, which contains 17 fields that can be used for football training or competition.
Disney opened the complex in 1997 and it includes a basketball court and other courts that will be used for the return of the NBA, as well as baseball and softball courts and a court.