‘MLS is Back’ League Officially Announces Return-to-Play Tournament in Florida

Major League Soccer released details for their MLS is Back Tournament starting July 8 at the ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex at Walt Disney World Resort in Florida.

The tournament had been rumored and reported for months. All 26 teams are invited. All matches played in Orlando.

MLS is Back will be similar to the World Cup in a few ways. There will be a pre-tournament drawing for groups and a group stage will be played followed by the knockout stage. The winner of the tournament will earn a spot in the 2021 Concacaf Champions League.

Overall, the tournament is scheduled to run July 8 through Aug. 11 with the format running as Group Stage, Round of 16, Quarterfinals, Semifinals and Championship. Each team is guaranteed three matches (full details below).

The regular season will begin after the tournament, and MLS says the schedule will “be developed at a later date”.

The MLS Press Release also notes a prize pool for players: “…the MLS is Back Tournament will give players the opportunity to earn additional bonuses as part of a $1.1 million prize pool.”

MLS also put together a massive protocol list for the tournament, which you can check out here.


Group stage games will count for points toward the 2020 regular season. Other group state details include:

  • The 26 teams will be split into six groups.
  • The Eastern Conference will have three groups (one of six teams and two with four teams each); while the Western Conference will have three groups (each consisting of four teams).
  • The pre-tournament Group Draw will be live streamed on Thurs. June 11 through MLSsoccer.com as well as MLS Facebook, Twitter and YouTube.
  • Each team will play three group stage matches over the course of 16 consecutive days.
  • The top two teams from each group along with the four best third-place finishers will move to the knockout stage; beginning with the Round of 16.
  • If two or more clubs are tied on points in the group stage MLS will use regular season tiebreaker procedures.
  • The tiebreakers for determining the four third-place clubs are: (1) points, (2) goal differential, (3) goals scored, (4) fewest disciplinary points.
  • Nashville SC will be placed in the Eastern Conference for the Tournament and the remainder of the 2020 season.
  • Top Seeds: Orlando City SC (host), Atlanta United (2019 East Semifinalist), Los Angeles Football Club (2019 West Semifinalist), Seattle Sounders FC (2019 West Semifinalist), Toronto FC (2019 East Semifinalist) and Real Salt Lake (the next highest points team from the Western Conference from 2019).

Tournament Disciplinary Procedures

  • All discipline received from the first two matches of the 2020 regular season will carry over to the MLS is Back tournament.
  • All group stage discipline will be reset before the start of the knockout stage except for red cards (and second yellows) and other Disciplinary Committee action which will carry over to the knockout stage.
  • There will be no yellow card accumulation policy for the knockout stage.
  • Any group stage discipline that has not been served prior to the end of the group stage will be applied to the next 2020 regular season match following the completion of the tournament.
  • If a player receives a second yellow card in the final group stage match but the first yellow card was also his 5th yellow card of the regular season, the player will be suspended for the first knockout stage competition match (due to red card suspension) AND for his first regular season match following the Tournament (for yellow card accumulation).
  • Red cards (and second yellows) and Disciplinary Committee action in any player’s final knockout stage match will carry over to the regular season. All other knockout stage discipline that has not been fully served prior to the conclusion of the knockout stage will not carry over to the regular season following the tournament.

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