MLS Is Back Tournament starts in just a few days!
Major League Soccer is the first taste of team sports in a bubble.
By Patrick Babbitt
Just next week will be the beginning of the MLS Is Back Tournament in Orlando, Florida. All 26 teams will be participating with a total of 54 matches taking place. These games will have consequences with real season points on the line and a spot for the 2021 Concacaf Champions League up for grabs. The league is currently descending on Orlando and will stay within a bubble as we grapple with the coronavirus. All eyes will be on this tournament as the NBA is due to restart in Orlando later this month.
The Group Stage will commence on July 8th with a month of play scheduled and a champion crowned on August 11. You can check out the schedule here. This is our first taste of team sports in the United States and could be a great opportunity to bring your friends together by starting an old fashioned bracket pool. Major League Soccer has tournament brackets available to download.
The league is taking many precautionary measures to ensure the safety of its players. There is an extensive testing program in place to test for COVID-19. Safety measures include temperature testing, social distancing, increased disinfecting and cleaning measures, mask protocols, and a pre-tournament sampling test administered to all participants. Additionally, within the tournament, players, coaches, and staff will be tested twice a week. So far, 24 players have tested positive before arrival in Orlando. Within the Orlando bubble six players have tested positive for COVID-19. All those members will have to quarantine before they are able to participate. You can find all the protocols at this website.
The tournament rules are set up similarly to the World Cup. All 26 Major League Soccer teams will be participating. There will be an initial group stage with some wiggle room if a team loses or ties; they may still be able to proceed to the next round. Then it is on to the knockout round followed by the quarterfinals, then semis, and capped off by the championship. There will be games nearly every single day of the tournament. You can find further information here. Check your local listings, most matches will be covered by FS1 and ESPN.
We’re cautiously optimistic the tournament will go off without a hitch. Live sports are hard to come by these days, especially team sports. The MLS Is Back is welcome entertainment as we continue to isolate. This tournament will tell us a lot about how we’ll be viewing sports for the next several months. Let’s fill out those brackets and see what happens!