ESPN’s Wide World of Sports in Walt Disney World, in Orlando, will become the American sports epicenter starting July, as two of the major leagues agreed to resume activity right there. NBA made the announcement first, but MLS will actually be the first pro sports league in the United States to return to action since play had to be suspended due to the Covid-19 pandemic that has hit the entire planet badly, but the U.S. even more. The chosen date is July 8th, for the beginning of the tournament.
MLS officials confirmed that the 2020 season as we originally knew it will not resume, but a new tournament format will be played in Orlando, considering that the original season format had only played 2 games before it had to be suspended, back in March. As it happened with the NBA, the MLS decided that it’s important for the league to return to action, but player’s and staff safety is even more important, and that’s why the league decided that the best way to move on was to change to a short tournament format and move all 26 teams to one single location where all the games can be played, instead of having to travel from one city to another and move so many people around.
“Getting out there and ensuring we have the certainty in playing games is crucial to the future success of the league”, said MLS Commissioner Dan Garber, and he added, “without the concept of a tournament, we would still be sitting here waiting”.
How will the new MLS tournament be played?
The MLS Tournament in Orlando will consist in 26 match days, the teams will be divided into six groups of 4 teams each and out of these groups, the top 16 will advance to a knockout round, single elimination games until we reach the final, which will be played on August 11th.
To use a very clear example, the new MLS tournament will be played just the same as a FIFA World Cup, 3 games on the group stage and then elimination games until reaching the final, which means that each team will play at least 3 games and the two finalists will play 7 games. The champion will earn a spot in the 2021 Concacaf Champions League, and the group matches will count for the regular season standings.
During the group stage, several games will be played throughout each day, starting as early as 9:00 am eastern time, 8:00 pm and 10:30 pm. It’s important to remember that there will be no fans in any of these games, they will all be played behind closed doors.
In a video conference with the media, Commissioner Don Garber said, “We came up with this concept of a 54-match tournament similar to the very successful World Cup here in 1994 where only 24 nations competed,". "Each team will have a minimum of three games in the group stage. Those results will count for the 2020 MLS season standings and that will continue when we're able to continue our season when we're back in our home markets.” So, it’s important to say that, even with this tournament solution, MLS is still planning to eventually play and finish the season.
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